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Oil spill: How HOSTCOM’s brought relief to Ikarama community

It is no longer news that the issue of oil spillage in the oilrich Niger Delta region has been over flogged but even at that, there is still a need for it to be reported as no visible solution seems to be in sight after all the agitations. All over the Niger Delta region, the issue of environmental degradation has been the order of the day as every part of the environment has been polluted. Ironically, nothing to show for the plight of the region as underdevelopment still stares them on the face.

In Bayelsa State, communities like Ikarama, Okordia, Biseni in Yenagoa Local Government Area and Koluama, Ogboinbiri in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area among others have been over polluted. Ironically the communities are helpless as even the 13 per cent derivation fund from the Federal Government that supposed to go to the oil producing communities doesn’t get to them. Hopefully, there is another proposal of 10 per cent equity fund embedded in the Petroleum Industry Bill that supposed to be meant for the host communities. If that is passed into law and the funds get to the oil-producing communities, then their lives will definitely change.

For now, there is no visible development in most of these communities. For instance, communities like Ikarama there is no visible government presence. With the oil spill that recently occurred at Ikarama community, the leadership of the community had to take complaints to the parent body that oversees all the activities of all the oil-bearing communities. With the recent development South-South focus went on a factfinding mission to the community that took more than two hours from the Yenagoa metropolis.

A very strenuous journey but very fruitful indeed. Speaking on the latest development, the paramount ruler of Ikarama community, Lamie Herberston Alfred, said another oil spill has just occurred at the community on April 6, stating that Shell said that it was a third party spill.

He said: “Whenever they are washing their equipment, at Ikarama manifold, this spillage does occur. Even last year, it occurred and this year it has occurred again because of the force they are using to wash the pipes. “That force they use makes the pipe burst but Shell is saying that it was made. This is correct corrosion. I will advise Shell to call the Ikarama community and do the needful.

They should pay compensation to the families concerned because it was not a third party. “Shell came into Ikarama community since 1964 to lay these pipes and those pipes have not been changed since that time till now. And that manifold controls both Adebawa oil fields in Rivers State and in Biseni field. “When there is a spill in a particular spot they will only come to do a sectional placement. We really need them to start changing all the pipelines.

Our Rivers are all polluted. “We don’t have any form of livelihood again. We can’t farm and we cannot catch fish and these are our occupations. When we plant, nothing comes out from the land again. The oil spillage has made the land to be so barren.” On his part, the community development chairman of Ikarama community, Joel Ebi said Ikarama community spill started in early 1991, stressing that from that time till now, the people have been experiencing it one after the other. He said:“Sometimes after two-three years one will occur and after another two-three years another one will occur but it was unknown to us that the line has been corroded.

“So, they jumped over our heads and each time these things happen SPDC would say that it is third party interference. Unknown to us, there was also another name they called corrosion that materials and equipment were also failing too. “So, we tried to erase our name from this ugly stink not until 2017 although as of then, there was a payment being made by SPDC engaging all the youths in the community.

In the course of that, they were paying N10,000 each to about eighty youths in the community and that made almost all the youths calm down even those so angry with SPDC. “Earlier before then, mere seeing their vehicle passing, youths were angry because no youth was engaged in the community, not even a skilled acquisition programme to affect the lives of the community youths. “Through the television, I have been hearing SDPC engaging youths in other areas.

One faithful morning, SPDC sent information to the community that they have stopped that payment. That night only the youths went and tempered with their line about sixteen points. “SPDC connived with the security agents to come and attack the community and that night they arrested a good number of persons including the paramount ruler of the community. The paramount ruler was kept in detention for about four days.

“That was in 2017. After that incident,we as indigenes of the community also cried aloud but who do have. We have nobody. We took a bold step by talking to the youths to stop the act and they stopped. “Thereafter the first spill occurred. There was a pressure test that Shell does almost every year that sometimes, they will come put their pick in the manifold to pressurize the line to wash out the organic materials that also follow the crude from the soil. In this exercise, it broke the pipe in a very close range to the manifold. “SPDC said it was sabotage, third party interference. We said no. We were on that argument for a couple of days.

They brought their equipment and tested that line and it was at the centre of the pipe where nobody can go and do anything. “They said they will use their instruments to come and test it. They said they have to carry out a test. They brought all their machinery, tested the pipe and finally it was pronounced corrosion. I was part of that JIV. “We took the matter up in terms of paying compensation.

They on their own dropped about N2.4 million to the community. No relief materials, no medical treatment. That was in 2019 the same year another spill occurred but SPDC argued until a friend organization NGO waded in. “They stood for the community they tried to make sure that the pipe was sent to the appropriate quarters. NOSDRA, ministry of environment, DPR were there.

They all saw the very point that this thing broke out and they all said it was corrosion, not third party interference but still SPDC was not satisfied. “Right now as we speak, that pipe has been taken it away from the community and is nowhere to be found.

Last time we were told that the pipe was at NOSDRA. At a time I was told that the pipe is in Lagos. Up till now, the pipe is still in the custody of SPDC. No compensation. Nothing was done. “On the 27th of March 2021, I was told that something was happening. We went and saw it was freshwater coming. We went to the point and found out that it was rupture bubbling out. “We called the surveillance supervisor and he said he got the information last night and he has also seen the very point. It was later on March 27 that the whole thing came out and busted oil. “The hydro test is the source of this problem. Each time they come to wash their pipe it must definitely break out from somewhere because the pipes have been corroded. Even right now they are still working still pushing the line with water. “The company named top line has been in this business for a very long time.

They are the ones doing the washing for them. After the information Shell said that it was a third party. “They even disallow us from going in. If you go there, there are soldiers camping there with more than fifteen soldiers camping there just for this purpose. “Ordinary fishermen, they didn’t allow them to asses that place.

We are taking another track now to go to the place. In the midst of the argument, they said the pipe should be cut. “They cut the pipe and found out that the brush that they used in washing the pipe was right inside it. They said they will go with the pipe but we refused until we know the name they will tag it.

The community didn’t allow them to go with it.” Reacting to the complaints, Bayelsa State chairman of the host communities of Nigeria producing oil and gas, Chief Boma Albert promised to help look into the challenge. He noted that the HOSTCOM would set up a tenman joint working committee to look into how the situation can be remedied. The HOSTCOM state chairman said it has become expedient to set up the joint working committee to look into the insistent occurrence regretting that even after the visitation by the National assembly members and his crew recently to that community, the spill still continues.

They added: “We want to set up a working committee to look at the continuous oil spillage that always occurs in Ikararma community. “We have gone there before to see the spillages. The day we went, security agents were there to intimidate the people.

As the mouthpiece of the host communities and because communities cannot go and fight the oil companies, they have been suffering for over sixty good years. “Based on that, we said we have to look for a way to help them and see how we can interface with Shell so that the community will be developed and the people will come out of their suffering.” All efforts to get a reaction from the spoke person of SPDC proved abortive as this correspondent was not allowed to come closer to the spill site.

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