Some farmers affected by the April 15 oil leak from Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC’s Kolo Creek oil fields in Otuasega, Bayelsa, have complained over alleged neglect by the company.
They told the News Agency of Nigeria in Otuasega on Sunday that the team on a Joint Investigation Visit, JIV, to the oil spill sites did not visit their farms affected by the oil spill.
According to the farmers, they made efforts to draw the attention of the team to their farms but to no avail.
Florence Ako, whose plantain farm is near the Kolo Creek manifold, said that the crude oil from the manifold spread into her farm and damaged the crops.
“The damage caused by the oil on our farmlands, is visible for all to see and this is happening so close to the harvest time,” she said.
“It is on this farm that I and my husband depend, to feed and train our children in school; my husband’s farm on the other side was equally affected.
“Unfortunately the JIV team did not come to this side and we came around to show them our farms but they did not listen to us.
“They have abandoned the oil residues and there was no oil recovery and clean-up done here.”
Corroborating his wife’s statement, OleiAko said his banana and plantain plantations were affected.
He said that they had reported their plight to the Bayelsa Government and appealed that it prevailed on the oil company to clean up their farms.
A fish farmer, Badigigha Igbodo, said the spill, which contaminated his fish pond and others belonging to his colleagues, wiped out all the fish.
According to Mr. Igbodo, the spill had destroyed the means of livelihood of over 50 farmers in the area.
Reacting to the complaints, Iniruo Wills, the Bayelsa Commissioner for Environment, said that the state government would verify the reported exclusion of some impacted sites.
“We have to verify the information and if it is true that the impacted area was larger than what was originally captured, we shall find a way of addressing these concerns.
“Nobody can hide under the cover of technicalities to say that an area that is really affected, will not be captured,” Mr. Wills said.
However, Precious Okolobo, Head of Media Relations in SPDC, said that the oil firm stood by the report of the JIV team, which stated that the spill was as a result of sabotage.
Mr. Okolobo maintained that when a spill was caused by sabotage, the oil company was not liable to compensate for the loss.
“Under Nigerian oil and gas regulations, the JIV determines the cause and impact of spill incidents.
“The investigation team which visited the site of the Kolo Creek spill on April 16, concluded that it was caused by sabotage,” he said.
In a related development, some Bayelsa communities that claim to have been affected by the January 2012 rig explosion at Chevron’s oilfields have called on government to compel the oil company to compensate them.
George Ibobra, a community leader in Koluama, one of the affected communities, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Yenagoa on Sunday.
Mr. Ibobra said that the explosion, which caused fire that raged for over one month in the area, affected the aquatic lives of the people contrary to Chevron’s position on the matter.
He said: “It is a show of the insensitivity by Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) to say that the rig explosion had no adverse effects.
“In addition to distorting the ecosystem, our fishing vocation has never been the same since then.
“We no longer catch fish as the fire which lasted over one month wiped them out. The weeds on the ocean floor where the fishes fed and bred were also destroyed.
“The sea weeds were contaminated by the hazardous materials used to contain the blow out and our fishermen now catch the weeds instead of fishes.
“We call on government to prevail on Chevron to compensate us so as to maintain the existing peace in the area.’’
Mr. Ibobra noted that when the incident occurred, government promised the communities some assistance.
He said that the communities were still hopeful that President Goodluck Jonathan would redeem his pledges to them on the issue before he left office.
Meanwhile, the company has said that there is no basis for payment of compensation for the January 2012 rig explosion off Bayelsa coastline.
In a statement issued in Yenagoa, Deji Haastrup, General Manager Policy, Government and Public Affairs, CNL, said the company had no liabilities from the incident.
Mr. Haastrup said: “The issue of compensation does not arise because the January 2012 rig incident occurred 10 kilometres offshore and did not adversely impact any community.
“However, following the incident, the Nigeria Oil Spill Detection and Remediation Agency, NOSDRA, conducted a post-incident environmental assessment.
“NOSDRA reported the findings to the Nigerian House of Representatives Committee on Environment.
“That report stated that there was no detectable level of pollutants and water samples tested were within naturally acceptable standards.
“Similarly, the result of the independent environmental studies carried out in the coastal communities after the rig incident showed no adverse effects on air or water and the environment.