Bonga oil spill
By Onwuka Nzeshi
The House of Representatives Thursday, mandated its Committees on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Environment and Niger Delta Ministry to visit, inspect and evaluate the cause and effect of the Bonga oil spill on the ecosystem of the neighbouring communities and ascertain the extent of clean –up of the spill.
It has also urged Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) and her Joint Venture Partners to take full responsibility for the Bonga oil spill in all ramifications instead of passing the buck.
These resolutions came on the heels of a motion sponsored by Hon Micah Umoh (PDP/Akwa Ibom) and brought before the House at plenary. Umoh disclosed that the spill which occurred on December 20, 2011 was as a result of a massive oil leak at the Bonga oil platform on OML 118. He said that an estimated 40,000 barrels of crude oil was spilled into the environment which led to a shut down of the field.
The lawmaker also recalled that on January 1, 2012, the said Bonga field went back into production amidst controversy of the level of clean up of the spill and its effects on communities. He accused Shell, the major operator of the field of refusing to take full responsibility for the impact of the oil spill.
According to Umoh, the communities along the coastline of Niger Delta were at some point during the spill, told to stay away from fishing because of the spill which has covered approximately 923KM2 of the region. He wondered how such a massive oil spill could have been contained and cleaned up at such a short time to allow resumption of production.
The motion to investigate the spill was unanimously adopted by all members and was referred to the relevant committees for further legislative action.
The House of Representatives had earlier threatened to apply stiff sanctions on the oil multinational if it failed to manage the spill according to international best practices.
Chairman, House Committee on Environment, Hon Uche Ekwunife, said the Committee was particularly disturbed by the release of an estimated 40,000 barrels of crude oil into the marine environment and the prospects of the oil reaching the shoreline if not properly managed. She urged the oil multinational to expedite action on the clean up of the spill to save the environment.
Ekwunife tasked the management of SNEPCO to cooperate with the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) over the oil spill incident to protect and preserve the environment and the people who live along the shoreline and depend mainly on fishing for their livelihood.
“SNEPCO should take all necessary actions to contain the spill, protect the shoreline and other sensitivities against oil pollution and be responsive to all issues arising from this oil spill incident in accordance with the polluter-pays-principle. The Committee is closely monitoring the ongoing response efforts led by NOSDRA, and will not hesitate to apply maximum sanctions for any act of default on the part of the polluter in order to ensure strict compliance to environmental legislation governing oil spill management in Nigeria, and the preservation of the Nigerian environment,” Ekwunife said.