Conoil oil spill: Bayelsa community counts cost as state govt, NOSDRA keep mute
From Amos Odeh, Yenogoa
Over three months after an oil spill that occurred from a facility operated by the Consolidated oil and gas Nigeria Limited ( Conoil ) in Sangana community in Akassa Kingdom in Brass Local government area of Bayelsa state , the Multinational oil giant is yet to respond to the incident, as Bayelsa state government and other interventionist agencies have kept mute while the spill continue to damage the community,s source of livelihood.
As a result the indigenes are lamenting their plight in the face of the debilitating impact of the pollution .The chairman of the Fishing Union, Ikonikuma Noel raises remains of a dead fish.
Accordingly, local folks and Fishermen who spoke angrily to Comrade Alagoa Morris , Head of Environmental Right Action /Friends of the Earth in Nigeria ( ERA/FoEN ) disclosed that the spill occurred since Thursday September 3 ,2020, has led to the death of fish stock.
The Chairman of the united Union of Sangana , Ikonikumo Noel corroborated that since on December , 28, 20″ l have laid complaints to several offices, but there has been no favourable response .The death of this fish , the decomposed fish , was caused by oil spill from conoil facility .The oil spill occurred three months “
“We have been looking for Conoil to at least shut down the facility so that the effect would not come us .But there has not been any solution .You see fishes are dying , dead fish everywhere .Can you imagine , a big fish of this magnitude” He said this is what is happening and the company is keeping quiet and doing about it even when the fisher folks no longer catch fish unless you drive deep into the ocean .If you don’t have a high powered engine you can’t go there .And even the periwinkle and other aquatic lives are no longer available due to this spill.We are suffering ,so we need government to intervene ,even conoil , let them know and compensate us so that we can feed ourselves and secure our children.This is what is happening “
The incident was also confirmed by a former Community Development Chairman , CDC, of Sangana, Benjamin Ayibakuro.
According to him,” each time the current changes direction to the land,it just getting into the Creeks and everywhere fish are dying . The last time l was at the community , l saw fish dying at the shore . It spilled for over one month and nobody talked .Reports have been given to the National Oil Spill and Response Agency ( NOSDRA) and Bayelsa state ministry of Environment, and maybe the Ministry of Mineral Resources ,as well as agencies that ought to take up the matter yet we are not seeing anything” he lamented.
Consequently on December 30 and December 31,2020 ERA/FoEN officials reportedly reached out the president of Akasa Youth Leaders Forum,Telimonye Matthew Moses ,who signed a letter on the subject matter addressed to the commissioner for Environment of Bayelsa state dated September 18 ,2020.
ERA/FoEN sought to inquire if the situation contained in the letter to the commissioner for Environment has changed and if there had been any response from the authorities of Conoil.Moses responded “They have not done anything ,those dead fish are still there.We have videos taken at the wellhead site and our fisher folks going to sea still informed us that crude oil is floating and affecting fishing activities till now.They complained that when they withdraw their fishing nets from the dept of the sea,the nets come out soiled with crude oil.When l went round the shore- line this afternoon with Ebiegberi Raynus , we still found dead fish and we took photos of some”
In one of the vidoe clips made available to ERA/FoEN by the chairman of the union at Sangana ,a fisher folk identified as Kingsley Awari was heard speaking in the Akasa dialect of Ijaw thus “This is the source of our suffering, causing fish to be scarce in the ocean .Hunger and starvation is killing us ( We are hungry ) .The fish are being killed and washed ashore.This is the kind of suffering Conoil has put us into. What kind of of suffering is that has come to kill Sangana people “
In response from ERA/FoEN on December 30,2020, Ebiegberi Henry Raynus , the Youth Affairs Coordinator of Akasa Development Foundation , ADF, said ” l and Matthew Telimonye visited 16.64km stretch of the Turtle beach linking Okumbiribeleu and Sangana to verify a report from operation of Conoil and heard directly from fishermen the weight of the damage and how it has impacted on their livelihood. ” Dead fish were all over the beach .We identified three species of dead fishes with predominantly croakers .Others are two species were Sslver catfish and tilapia.We moved from Okumbiribeleu to Sangana and met few fishermen “
They explained that although the spill has reduced,but crude oil is still floating on the water some meters away from the shore. For proof, we met a man at Sangana who gave us video clips that showed oozing oil head .From community fishermen explained , “it is true that oil spill is on going. No investigation has been carried out or any agencies like NOSDRA have come to find out what is happening and to hold culprits accountable. Fishing communities are still suffering from oil devastation and damages as they called on relevant interventionist agencies to be proactive and act fast to end this threat. It is no doubt affecting conservation of marine ecosystem as the beach is the major resting ground for green ,olive red and leatherback turtles”
ERA/FoEN officials called on ÑOSDRA and Bayelsa state Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Mineral Resources to take immediate steps to visit impacted communities and to ensure that Conoil takes responsibility.
Also the Environment advocacy body said that Conoil should be fined according to the NOSDRA Act, if the company has not reported the incident already within 24 hours as stipulated.
Apart from immediately conducting a joint Investigation visit (JIV) ERA/FoEN wants to compel Conoil to do the needful in terms of clean up , relief materials and compensation to tthe victims of the company’s operation.
Hence, stakeholders are enjoined to include Environmental/Human Right advocacy groups like ERA/FoEN as first line of those to be contacted whenever there are related incident.” This is with a view to ensure that important matters are not swept under the carpets by same public agencies who ought to raise the red flag ” Morris stated.
All efforts made to contact the Bayelsa state commissioner for Environment proved abortive as SMS sent to his phone was not given a reply.