The House of Representatives Committee on Environment has summoned the management of Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) and the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) over an oil spill that occurred at Shell’s Bonga Field in December 2011.
Also summoned are the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) as well as representatives of about 88 fishing communities located in Warri South-west and Warri North Local Government Areas of Delta State.
The summon followed the demand by the coastal communities for a N20 billion compensation as special and general damages allegedly caused by the oil spill.
Chairman of the House Committee on Environment, Hon. Uche Ekwunife, said the summon of the oil firm, communities and government agencies became necessary because the committee could not take any decision on the claims by the communities without giving all parties fair hearing and ascertaining the facts of the case.
Ekwunife acknowledged the plight of communities in the oil producing areas whose inhabitants live in abject poverty in the midst of abundant oil wealth but cautioned that such a situation must not be exploited negatively.
She expressed concern that the fresh claims and demands for compensation were coming almost two years after the spill incident and long after the committee had dispensed with the matter.
“We have to be very careful that what we are fighting for are justifiable and by extension what is being presented to us as lawmakers are true. This is because being a people’s parliament, we are always ready to push the issues of Nigerians to logical conclusion so that justice is served to whoever deserves it.
“However, we will not want a situation where we will be misled into fighting for what is not right.
“Why did it take you two years to lay your complaint? We agree that oil producing communities in the Niger Delta have suffered a lot of neglect over the years, but we must also ensure that when communities demand that oil companies pay compensation for damages, such demands must be backed by facts and incontrovertible evidence,” she said.
Ekwunife directed the communities to make available all necessary documents pertaining to their claims at the next meeting. These include, the letters of complaint which they claimed to have sent to SNEPCO and other relevant agencies on the spill. They are to also produce the valuation report to show the extent of damage done to the communities and how they arrived at the N20billion compensation claim.
In a presentation before members of the House Committee on Environment, representative of the communities, FMON Nigeria Limited, said the spill did not affect the communities directly but impacted on their fishing grounds and destroyed their means of livelihood.
The spill valuation firm said it had earlier approached SNEPCO and NOSDRA but that both institutions failed to address its demands for monetary compensation as well as relief materials for the communities.
Information from This Day was used in this report.