Monday, January 23, 2012

Untold story of Bonga oil spill

22 January 2012

Written by Oluwole Ige, Yenagoa

Inhabitants of Odioma community affected by the Bonga oil spill
Residents of the riverine community of Odioma, in Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State are still counting their losses as the devastating effects of last December oil spillage, which wrecked overwhelming havoc on their aquatic lives and farmlands continue to raise serious concern, regarding their means of livelihood.

The growing cases of oil spill in the Niger-Delta region have become  recurring phenomena. For decades, oil producing communities in the South-South have been battling with multinational oil companies and the Federal Government on the need to pre-empt and contain oil spills that had culminated in gross environmental pollution, destruction of sea lives and diminishing quality of soil texture.

Predominantly, inhabitants of Odioma and other coastal communities in Southern Ijaw and Ekeremor Local Government councils, including Bisangbene, Letugbene, Agge and Ogulagha, Odimodi, in Delta State terribly affected by the Bonga Oil Spill, from the platform of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) are fishermen. So, the spill, which occurred a day before the celebration of Christmas, was a big blow to their means of livelihood.

In all, no fewer than 64 communities both in Bayelsa and Delta States are faced with negative impacts of the spill from SPDC facilities.

The latest spillage, which is adjudged to be one of the worst in 10 years, occurred four months after a major United Nations (UN) study said it may take Shell, Chevron and other oil multinationals 30 years and a whooping sum $1billion to effectively carry out a comprehensive cleaning of spills in the Niger Delta region.


But contrary to the claims of the Odioma community, SPDC spokesperson, Mr Precious Okolobo posited that the spill did not get to the shores of the coastal community.

According to him, “the oil was largely dispersed by Sunday, December 25, 2011 due to natural processes of dispersion, spreading and evaporation and the integrated efforts of SNEPCO, government and our industry partners.”

While Okolobo insisted that initial modelling suggested 50 per cent of the total spill had gone via natural processes by December 22, 2011, he said “oil disperses naturally through evaporation and bio-degradation. Dispersants speed up natural dispersion. Main benefits are that they remove concentrated oil from water surface and disperse oil into the water column where it naturally degrades.

“It is important to understand that the Bonga FPSO is 120km offshore, about one hour by a helicopter flight from Warri. There are no communities near the facility. As part of our emergency response planning, we envisage the most likely emergency response scenarios and plan accordingly. To ensure no oil from the Bonga leak reached the beach, we leveraged assets from around Shell’s global portfolio.  We also worked with and benefited from the assistance of our industry partners.  Our main goal was to ensure the oil fully dispersed and that none of it reached the shore.  We were successful”, the SPDC spokesman emphasised.

We believe the oil on the beach is not from Bonga. We made significant progress every day to disperse the oil that leaked from Bonga. We were disappointed to see images of a third party spill which appeared to be from a vessel in the middle of an area that we had previously cleaned up,” he added.

“We advise the peaceful populace of Yenagoa to remain calm, but strong and vigilant as we work together to overcome these challenges,” he stated.

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