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In Owaza, gas flaring comes with deadly consequences (III)

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In Owaza, gas flaring comes  with deadly consequences (III)

People of Owaza have been crying over mysterious sicknesses and death allegedly caused by gas flaring in their community. In this concluding part of the story, JULIANA FRANCIS reports that the oil companies denied all allegations levelled against them by Owaza community

 

The consultant, Cosmo Base Consortium Nigeria Limited, Mr. Benson Ezem, reacting to some of the allegations raised by the community, says: “We have been having problem with Lot One contractor, who happens to be the major contractor. The man used to be the House Committee Chairman on NDDC, Ministry of Niger Delta. I have done everything as a consultant, to make them do their job.

 

The Lot Two contractor has done everything; in fact it’s me that told him to hold on. If he leaves now, the place would be abandoned. The major contractor, who is supposed to be the driving force of this project, is the major problem.

 

“I had a meeting with him and the liaison officer. I made an appeal to him. I have written several letters to him, I had even threatened him. I keep telling him that was not the way to do things. He came up to say the cost of materials had gone up.

 

The fact is this, when you have a big project, you invest money into it. “As a consultant, my job is to be there and ensured that the job is properly done. As work is going on, I would be supervising it. I’m as passionate as the community members about the centre. No consultant would like to be on a project for this long. It’s not the best. The contractor gets money, but wouldn’t put it into the project.

 

Most projects that we started after that as a consultant are completed. Most times, I had had to mediate between community, contractors, security guards and workers, just to ensure that the job goes on. That’s not part of my job. “The community also has blame in some areas. I got the Lot Three man to bring his underground cables, generators to site, the community went and vandalised the whole things.

 

They vandalised generators and even overhead high tension. Even about five or six transformers that we brought to site were carted away overnight.

 

They recovered four of the transformers, what about the generator? They scavenged it. I told them it was not right. It was for their community. Such a site could be turned into a polytechnic someday. They have an advantage. “The centre has everything, including female and male hostels.

 

 

Even if the contractors are not coming to site, it is the community’s responsibility to guard what has come into their community.

 

And that’s the experiences the contractors were getting. Even the Lot Two man; they went into the site and stole his things. He had to replace most of them, while the project manager recovered some. I don’t know what to do with the Lot One contractor. If he is showing presence, the way other contractors had been showing presence, the project would have been completed by now.” But the Lot One Contractor, Mr Nwogu Obarido, of Hinterland Developers Nigeria Limited, says the project has not been abandoned. “How can the community say that the project has been abandoned?

 

Right now, as I’m speaking with you, work is going on at the site. Even three weeks ago, work was going on there; workers were molding blocks. As a matter of fact, we have done more job than the ministry even paid us for. Yes, out of the nine acquisition centres in the Niger Delta, different states have had their own challenges, peculiar to the nature of the project. If you go to the site right now, you’ll meet the project engineer; work is going on there now.”

 

 

The NDDC in Abia State accusations

 

Reacting to allegations raised by Owaza community, Shell spokesperson, Mr. Joseph Obari, says the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC,) operator of the NNPC/Shell/Total/ENI Joint Venture has continued to enjoy a cordial relationship with its host communities in Owaza. “Oil and gas operations in the area have been conducted in the most responsible manner. Allegations and insinuations of damage to the environment and total neglect of the area are unfounded.

 

The associated gas from production facilities in the Owaza area is gathered, compressed and sold to industrial domestic customers through the domestic gas network.

 

The limited pilot flaring is well below regulatory limits and has never been linked to health hazards. Pilot flaring is a mandatory industry safety requirement worldwide. In line with SPDC’s philosophy of operational excellence, there is continuous implementation of the Green House Gas and Energy Management Plan which has minimised flaring in the Owaza axis. “In recognition of its CSR, Shell has continued to contribute to the improvement of quality of lives of people in host communities of the Owaza field in Abia State.

 

A total of N420 million has been expended on social investment activities and programmes in its host communities in the area in the past six years. For instance, SPDC has supported the Owaza Cottage Hospital to the tune of N165.2 million since 1997, covering upgrade of infrastructure, yearly maintenance, and supply of drugs, immunisation and health outreach programmes, among others.

 

The hospital, which is run under a tripartite arrangement with the Abia State government, the community and SPDC, caters for the daily health needs of the people of the area. “In October 2017, the Ukwa West Cluster Development Board (CDB) inaugurated seven projects under the SPDC Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU).

 

The interventions valued at over N200 million included undergraduate scholarships, power supply improvement, construction of market stalls, sanitation, water supply and a town hall. Several other projects have been completed since then. This is in addition to direct SPDC social investment programmes covering secondary and undergraduate scholarships, youth entrepreneurial programmes and completion of infrastructural projects,” he adds.

 

Total Oil spokesperson, Mr. Charles Ebereonwu, says the firm has two installations in Owaza – a downstream gas processing plant which supplies gas to the Alaoji Power Plant in Aba and a portion of the Northern Option Pipeline (NOPL) which feeds the gas plant with gas from the company’s facility in OML58, River State. “Total does not own or operate any oil/gas well in Owaza and our activities in the area do not involve any routine gas flaring.

 

Our first contact with Owaza community was during the project phase of the Northern Option Pipeline (NOPL) in 2012. In line with our tradition of partnering with communities for economic development, we have a number of CSR programmes for Owaza.

 

During the project phase, our contractor entered into a MoU with the community wherein all community relations concerns, including trainings, local contracts, employment, were clearly addressed. Our contractor, SCNL, also ensured that labourers were sourced locally.

 

He says: “Total also directly entered into a project MoU with the Owaza community.

 

This MoU focused mainly on legacy infrastructure development projects namely: The recently commissioned two semi-detached two-bedroom apartment at Ologo and Umugele; construction of a three-room lock-up shop at Umu-Oyenke -100 per cent completed; renovation of Nwaeyim Kwerenadi Town Hall -95 per cent completed; construction of bakery complex at Isi-Etitioha -80 per cent completed; and construction of tworoom self-contained at Etitioha -70 per cent completed.”

 

 

Our reporter visited the office of NDDC project manager, Abia State, twice, but he was not available. Mr. Oghara Tox (an engineer), who was in the office when our reporter visited the second time, explains that any information concerning NDDC projects in Owaza community, cannot be provided, except a formal letter is written to NDDC, Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Earlier, NDDC Abuja office has disclosed to our reporter that only Abia State NDDC can attend to her enquiries about completed or abandoned NDDC projects in Owaza.

 

 

Shell and Total counter Owaza’s accusations

 

Reacting to allegations raised by Owaza community, Shell spokesperson, Mr. Joseph Obari, says the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC,) operator of the NNPC/Shell/Total/ENI Joint Venture has continued to enjoy a cordial relationship with its host communities in Owaza.

 

“Oil and gas operations in the area have been conducted in the most responsible manner. Allegations and insinuations of damage to the environment and total neglect of the area are unfounded. The associated gas from production facilities in the Owaza area is gathered, compressed and sold to industrial domestic customers through the domestic gas network.

 

 

The limited pilot flaring is well below regulatory limits and has never been linked to health hazards. Pilot flaring is a mandatory industry safety requirement worldwide. In line with SPDC’s philosophy of operational excellence, there is continuous implementation of the Green House Gas and Energy Management Plan which has minimised flaring in the Owaza axis.

 

“In recognition of its CSR, Shell has continued to contribute to the improvement of quality of lives of people in host communities of the Owaza field in Abia State. A total of N420 million has been expended on social investment activities and programmes in its host communities in the area in the past six years.

 

For instance, SPDC has supported the Owaza Cottage Hospital to the tune of N165.2 million since 1997, covering upgrade of infrastructure, yearly maintenance, and supply of drugs, immunisation and health outreach programmes, among others. The hospital, which is run under a tripartite arrangement with the Abia State government, the community and SPDC, caters for the daily health needs of the people of the area. “In October 2017, the Ukwa West Cluster Development Board (CDB) inaugurated seven projects under the SPDC Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU).

 

The interventions valued at over N200 million included undergraduate scholarships, power supply improvement, construction of market stalls, sanitation, water supply and a town hall. Several other projects have been completed since then. This is in addition to direct SPDC social investment programmes covering secondary and undergraduate scholarships, youth entrepreneurial programmes and completion of infrastructural projects,” he adds.

 

Total Oil spokesperson, Mr. Charles Ebereonwu, says the firm has two installations in Owaza – a downstream gas processing plant which supplies gas to the Alaoji Power Plant in Aba and a portion of the Northern Option Pipeline (NOPL) which feeds the gas plant with gas from the company’s facility in OML58, River State. “Total does not own or operate any oil/gas well in Owaza and our activities in the area do not involve any routine gas flaring.

 

Our first contact with Owaza community was during the project phase of the Northern Option Pipeline (NOPL) in 2012. In line with our tradition of partnering with communities for economic development, we have a number of CSR programmes for Owaza.

 

During the project phase, our contractor entered into a MoU with the community wherein all community relations concerns, including trainings, local contracts, employment, were clearly addressed. Our contractor, SCNL, also ensured that labourers were sourced locally.

 

He says: “Total also directly entered into a project MoU with the Owaza community.

 

This MoU focused mainly on legacy infrastructure development projects namely: The recently commissioned two semi-detached two-bedroom apartment at Ologo and Umugele; construction of a three-room lock-up shop at Umu-Oyenke -100 per cent completed; renovation of Nwaeyim Kwerenadi Town Hall -95 per cent completed; construction of bakery complex at Isi-Etitioha -80 per cent completed; and construction of tworoom self-contained at Etitioha -70 per cent completed.”

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