The National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) has come under fire for the report into the statutory Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) into two separate oil spills from facilities operated by the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, and Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited NNPCL that occurred in Aleto and Eteo communities in Eleme, Rivers State.
JIV is a statutory inquiry that follows every oil spill incident consisting of representatives of the oil firm, regulators, host community, and State Ministry of Environment, to ascertain the cause of oil spills and the volume spilled.
Speaking on the inconclusive JIV, the Chairman of Aleto community, Alali Amaechi, said the delay was due to conflicting findings, explaining that the community was not happy with the way NOSDRA was handling the incident.
“For now, the JIV is still inconclusive because the investigators have different opinions. NOSDRA has a different report, the State Ministry of Environment has a different report and the community has a different view on the incident. So, when they asked the community to sign the report, they refused. The whole thing has stagnated for a month now.
Meanwhile, stakeholders have called on the federal government to prevail on NOSDRA to make public the report of their investigation so far on the two spills incident.
The Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre, YEAC Nigeria, said it was unfortunate on the part of NOSDRA to delay the whole process, warning that the sad development may brew crisis if not swiftly handled.
Executive Director of Yeac Nigeria, Mr Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface, said NOSDRA ought to have quickly carried out a joint investigation few hours after the spills was reported, in line with the PIA 2021 to ascertain the cause of the spill, while the operator clamp the leaks and engage the communities.
Fyneface who is a renowned environmental justice activist in the Niger Delta, explained that NOSDRA’s prolong silence on the two oil spills was a bad omen and shows unseriousness in curbing incessant spills in the country.
“The joint investigation visit is not what we should beg for, it is what should be done immediately. I am very worried about the delay and silence of NODSRA.
“I am in doubt of their existence. This undue silence makes us feel that NOSDRA has been compromised by these oil companies responsible for the spills, as we do not expect NOSDRA to take these things lightly.
“It is worrisome that after the Joint Investigation Visit in Aleto over the spill, NOSDRA is yet to release the report. We have checked their website and the report is not available.’’
Similarly, a renowned lawyer and former leader of MOSOP, Mr. Ledum Mitee, said it was unsurprising that NOSDRA was yet to release its findings, accusing the oil spills regulator of relying on oil operators to carry out its statutory job.
“The oil companies should be held accountable for whatever happened in the communities. Most times, NOSDRA officials do not have a means of transportation, so they rely on these oil companies to go to where they are.”
Corroborating, an Environmental Rights Activists, Mr. Celestine Akpobari, said NOSDRA‘s silence is a confirmation that the federal government agency relies heavily on oil companies to conduct their JIVs.
“It has been my worry that a regulatory body as NOSDRA does not have what it takes to do an investigation on spills. It is the polluter that provides a means to convey them to the scene. If the spills happen in the creek, the chopper used is provided by the company and you know he who pays the piper detects the tune.”
Akpobari further advised the affected communities to stand their ground and avoid compromise in the face of JIV findings.
“I advise the affected communities to remain calm and not take the laws into their hands so that the enemies of the people do not capitalize on their actions to deny them justice. They should remain united and allow their representatives to work out ways to bring them justice.”