A non-governmental organisation, Oil and Gas Producing Areas Enlightenment and Empowerment Initiative, has alleged that over 50 fishing settlements in Bayelsa State have been destroyed by the recent oil spills in Aghoro 1 and 2 communities.
Aghoro hosts an oilfield operated by oil multinational, Shell Petroleum Development Company, in Ekeremor Local Government Area of the state.
The communities, Aghoro 1 and 2, were reportedly affected by oil spills from SPDC’s pipeline network in the area recently.
Spokesman for the group, Dr. Anapunere Awoii, alleged in Yenagoa on Thursday that about 10,000 fishing nets, sources of water and farmlands with crops were also adversely impacted and destroyed by the spills.
Awoii, who spoke on behalf of the President of the group, Mr. Jackson Igbabiri, claimed that the most affected communities were those in Aghoro 1 comprising Famous Ama, Garden of Eden, Aya Ama, Azatitor and Birigbene.
He said, “From the assessment we conducted on the incident, we found out that about 10,000 fishing nets, over 50 fishing settlements, farmlands including coconut farms, plantain and water yam farms were impacted by the spills.
“Some of the fishing settlements in the area are Amasese, Idolo, Semetiegbe, Yoba, Agoloudu, Ama Iyorodtugbene, Isun Adofeye camp among others.
“We are calling on SPDC to urgently provide alternative sources of water like borehole for the people. The people are also in dire need of medical aids and food items and the situation can lead to public health challenges if not taken care of.
“Let me once again commend the state government on their visit to the affected communities; it is very encouraging that the government is sensitive to the plight of the victims. The show of empathy is plausible and commendable.”
Recall that the state government led by its deputy governor, Rear Admiral John Jonah, had visited the impacted sites and called on the SPDC to apply standard practice to avert a recurrence.
The Traditional Ruler, His Majesty, King Enimikem Famous, of Famous Ama Community in Aghoro, described the incident as “unfortunate”.
He urged the Federal Government, SPDC and other well-meaning Nigerians to come to their rescue.
The monarch decried the way their people had suffered from oil spillages, noting that the adverse effects on human health were worrisome.
“We have suffered too much spills; our people have suffered from several illnesses such as cholera, severe cough and infertility caused by the type of water we consume,” he said.
Reacting to the incident, the Manager, Stakeholders Relations, SPDC, Dr. Alice Aje, said the oil firm was responding to the spill incident and sought the understanding and cooperation of the communities. She described the spill as “regrettable and unfortunate”, adding that efforts were underway to convene a joint investigative visit with community representatives to probe the cause of the spill.
Also, the Media Relations Manager, SPDC, Mr. Bamidele Odugbesan, has said that a JIV to Aghoro communities is underway to investigate the cause of an oil leak in the area. Odugbesan said on Thursday via a telephone interview that the oil firm had convened a joint investigation team to visit the area. He, however, regretted that the rains and swampy nature of the area were hampering the spill response operations.
Reacting to allegations of delayed response to the spill which was reported in May, Odugbesan said that the allegations were baseless, adding that Shell was doing everything possible to control the spill.
He said, “We have been working round-the-clock since the leak occurred; we got the report and as we speak, the JIV is underway but it is not yet concluded because there are three leak points in Aghoro.
“The JIV team, comprising SPDC officials, regulators, community representatives and Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment officials must visit the three spots before arriving at a conclusion.
“The JIV report will indicate the cause of the spill as well as the estimated volume of crude that was discharged into the area.”