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Nigeria Oil Spill Worsens as Oil Companies Flout NOSDRA’s Directive

-By Fred Ojiegbe

Oil spills have been a perennial issue in the Niger Delta as there are estimated 40 million liters of crude oil spilled annually, which results in huge casualties and damage to the local ecosystem.

In a study by the Journal of Health and Pollution in 2018, more than 12,000 oil spill incidents occurred in the oil-rich region between 1976 and 2018, making it 42 years of agony for inhabitants of the region..

In addition to that, pipeline corrosion and tanker accidents caused more than 50 percent of them.

Other incidents can be attributed to operational error, mechanical failure, and sabotage mostly from militant groups, the study said.

This has been a huge source of concern as experts from the United Nations Environment Programme, (UNEP) in the first scientific survey of the area found that people in Ogoniland had “lived with chronic oil pollution throughout their lives.”

More disturbingly, the UNEP experts project in the 2011 report that it would take 30 years to clean the oil mess left behind.

Also, oil companies keep violating safety rules for operation as enacted by the Nigerian Oil Spill Detection and Regulatory Agency.

Oil companies expected to clean up spills within 24 hours under Nigerian law have also been accused of falling short of this obligation.

In a 2018 report, Amnesty International accused Shell and Eni, the two major operators in the Niger Delta, of negligence in their response to oil spills in the area.

The campaign group said the companies’ “irresponsible approach” to oil spills had worsened the environmental crisis in the Niger Delta, an allegation both companies have since denied.

Shell in an emailed statement to CNN last year said the report failed to acknowledge the complex environment in which the company operates in the region.

“Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, in collaboration with government regulators, respond to spill incidents as quickly as it can and clean up spills from its facilities regardless of the cause. We regularly test our emergency spill response procedures and capability to ensure staff and contractors can respond rapidly to an incident,” Shell said at the time.

The response time to an oil spill depends on the security situation and the company’s ability to access affected areas in the swampy region, the company said.

Some instances of oil spill in Bayelsa and Delta which occurred on May 17, 2018 had impacted and polluted estimated area of 113.03 hectares in Aghoro and Odumodu communities in Bayelsa and Delta respectively.

A Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) report of the incident obtained had concluded that the leak on the pipeline at three spots was caused by equipment failure.

The investigation showed that this discharged about 1,114 barrels of crude oil into the environment.

The National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) had in a post-impact assessment report obtained recommended that the ecological damages caused by the leak be remediated with N2.74 billion, which was not paid.

Although the federal government has handed over oil spill detection, response and laboratory equipment to the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) to help detect oil spill in the country, the cases of oil spill still persist.

Also, the Geographic Information System (GIS) centre for the agency installed in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Warri, Uyo and Kaduna to assist in detecting oil spill, has not achieved the desired result.

Furthermore, the impact of oil spills is further estimated to be severe on communities where oil drilling activities are not addressed by the relevant authorities.

Experts have also faulted the situation of the NOSDRA’s headquarters in Abuja while oil spill cases happen in the Niger-Delta region.

Experts argue that the efficiency of the agency will be enhanced if the federal government relocates it to the Niger-Delta region for on-the-spot assessment so that the challenges of oil spill will be tackled and erring oil companies will be punished immediately.