•Experts call for caution in use of toxic dispersants
Olusegun Samuel in Yenagoa
The Michael Diongoli Foundation has called on the federal government to take a decisive step in sanctioning oil multinationals whose equipment constantly malfunction in the course of oil exploration activities in the Niger Delta.
Foundation head, Michael Diongoli, who made the call during a media chat in his office, said the increasing rate of oil spillage within the Niger Delta with the most recent occurrence in the Ahoada area of Rivers state calls for urgent government intervention.
He called for stiffer sanctions for oil multinationals to overhaul their working equipment in order to checkmate the ugly recurrent experience.
Diongoli stated that though there is an urgent need for collaborative synergy from the people of the Niger Delta to tackle issues of pipeline vandalism, oil multinationals must not hide in that guise to keep using obsolete equipment in carrying out their activities in the region.
He said the foundation in the course of carrying out humanitarian duties, traversed impacted areas in the region and noticed obvious developmental gap in most of the communities.
He called on the oil multinationals to also partner with the private sector to further strengthen the developmental gap occasioned by increasing oil spills that have left the people helpless.
In a related development, some environmentalists have expressed concern on the biosafety and toxicity of dispersants used to mop up oil spills from offshore waters which support fishes and marine creatures.
The concerns are coming as IOCs divest from onshore assets for offshore fields. Dispersants are chemicals applied to oil spills to break down the oil molecules.
The environmentalists spoke against the backdrop of the November 15 leak from Egina Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel operated by TotalEnergies. They spoke in separate interviews on Monday in Yenagoa.
A renowned environmentalist, Dr Nnimmo Bassey, in a reaction to the incident noted that IOCs seem to prefer the ‘remote’ location of offshore oil fields, stressing that offshore oil fields shy from scrutiny of regulators and communities.
He said it was regrettable that after several decades of polluting their onshore fields, the IOCs were going offshore without clean-up.
Bassey said that dispersants are known to be toxic to aquatic life that form part of the food chain.
“The use of dispersants is mainly to hide the impact of oil spills from view. As the name says, they disperse but do not eliminate or remove the spills. It is known that chemicals remain in the aquatic ecosystem with some staying on the seabed.
“These dispersants have impact on the aquatic species and by extension they also cause injury to human health. Considering the lax regulation of the oil field environment, this is another example of expanding the sacrifice zone the Niger Delta has been turned into.
“We cannot continue to sacrifice our people and environment on the altar of cash,” Bassey said.
For the Head of Field Operations at Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Chief Alagoa Morris, in Bayelsa, dispersants are not conducive to life.
“The thing is that these chemicals called dispersants used by the oil companies to reduce the quantity of spilled crude oil or sink the crude oil are not properly identified by stakeholders or experts to enable informed conclusions.
“It is one of the smart ways deployed by the polluters to be evasive, taking advantage of not having regulators or environmental groups within the particular location at the point in time.
“We in ERA have received several such complaints of inappropriate use of dispersants from community folks in Ogboinbiri, Odioama and Ikarama. The use of dispersants is not an alternative for clean-up or remediation,” he said.
Also, Niger Delta Coordinator of Artisanal Fishermen Association, Reverend Samuel Ayadi , said that chemical dispersants used to tackle spills are poisonous to fish and wipe out generations of fish species.
“The chemicals they call dispersant is poisonous. It not only kills fishes but when the coagulated crude sinks to the seabed where fish breeds, it wipes out the eggs as well and that is like an epidemic.
“The dispersants they use on the spill at Egina will cause until hardship to fishes and fishing activities in the Niger Delta for long time starting with prolonged fish scarcity,” he said.