* Demands Immediate Remediation Of Damages And Intervention By Relevant Federal Agencies

By Celestine Okafor (Editor-in-Chief) @CeleOkaf11

SPACES FOR CHANGE/S4C, a Non-Governmental Organization based in Ikeja, Lagos, has accused the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) of engaging in another round of oil spillage in Obiakpu Community in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area of Imo state.

The alleged oil spills, according to the NGO, are caused by leakages from crude oil pipelines owned by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) which is being operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC).

A statement on Thursday, June 10, 2021, by the Executive Director of SPACES FOR CHANGE/S4C, Barrister Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, said the spill resulted in an inferno that raged continuously for three (3) days - from 28th May to 30th May 2021 - before it was finally put out. The fire, according to the NGO's statement, contaminated water sources, devastated farmlands and traditional livelihoods, while leaving the communities poorer and traumatized.

Ibezim-Ohaeri however stated that her organization, SPACES FOR CHANGE/S4C, condemns, in very strong terms, "this import of bad environmental practices prevalent in the Niger Delta region into Imo State by multinational oil companies.

"From the testimony of eyewitnesses and residents, the spillage started two (2) years ago and residents immediately reported the incident to SPDC for proper remediation steps. However, despite prompt notice, SPDC did not take any step to stop the oil spill and remediate the environment until one (1) year and six months later and at that time, the spillage had wreaked irreparable damage on the community, a further display of negligence and blatant disregard towards the environmental and socio-economic rights of host communities by oil majors.

"The resultant inferno that engulfed Obiakpu community destroyed over 100 fish ponds, several farmlands, and plantations among others estimated to be worth billions of naira, in addition to the devastating impact on the environment as the spilled oil, flowed into the community river which serves as a major source of water for the community. This incident at Obiakpu demonstrates a lack of commitment and dereliction of duty by SPDC and other multinational oil companies operating in local communities.

"We reiterate that the deliberate acts and omissions of these companies in this regard amount to a flagrant violation of the right of host communities to development and healthy environment as protected in Chapter II of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, international instruments, and other local regulations, especially the Department of Petroleum Resources Environmental Guidelines and Standards for Petroleum Industries in Nigeria (EGASPIN) that places the responsibility of prevention of environmental degradation on private entities when such degradation is as a result of their direct acts and or omissions.

"SPACES FOR CHANGE/S4C hereby, demands that Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) commence the process of remediating the degradation and damage to the environment of Obiakpu community with immediate effect. SPDC must be mandated by the regulatory agencies to deploy international best practices in their operations for the protection of the environment and host communities. Communities and individuals affected by the inferno must be provided with emergency relief measures as a matter of urgency. Regulatory agencies must take further steps to ensure that investigation of oil spills are open, fair, and without undue interference from oil companies", Ibezim-Ohaeri stated. NNL.

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