Dark clouds hang over Niger Delta as Gbaramatu youths issue ultimatum to FG, Chevron over oil spills
Tension is mounting in Niger Delta over a possible shutdown of oil activities as Gbaramatu Youth Council, GYC, worldwide, the apex youth body in Gbaramatu Kingdom, has threatened to compel Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) to take full responsibility for the oil spillage that occurred on its 16-inch Makaraba-Otunana-Abiteye trunk line in their communities.
CNL had earlier been dragged by the indigenes of Benikrukru community in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri-South West Local Government Area of Delta State for refusing to compensate the victims of an oil spill they alleged has endangered their source of livelihood.
The oil spill, which occurred in February, 2021, according to the community, is from CNL’s 16″ Makaraba-Utonana-Abiteye Right of Way, in Chevron’s western area of operations, Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State.
However, the youth in a protest letter addressed to the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) Chief Executive, Engr. Gbenga Komolafe, gave seven working days ultimatum after which they will take self-help measures.
They asserted that they shall not be held responsible for their resort to self-help measures in order to compel CNL to face the consequences of its defiant operational ethics that have undermined the health, environment and food security stressing that their people have been exposed to health hazards as a result of the heavy oil pollution on their rivers.
The letter dated 18th of July and titled ‘COMPEL CHEVRON NIGERIA LIMITED TO COME TO THE AID OF GBARAMATU PEOPLE WHO ARE VICTIMS OF THE OIL SPILLAGE IN ITS 16-INCH MAKARABA-OTUNANA-ABITEYE TRUNK LINE AS CONFIRMED BY A JOINT INVESTIGATION (JIV) CARRIED OUT ON APRIL 2, 2022 ON THE SPILL POINT,’ was jointly signed by the council oresident, Shedrack Onitsha Ebikeme, and Secretary, Joel Ebikefe Asoh.
GYC also lamented on other lingering issues, targeted at undermining their stakeholder-ship by a privileged few within the CNL system in the letter that was copied to the Chairman/MD, Chevron Nigeria Limited, R.J. Kennedy.
The letter reads in part: “We write to appeal to your good conscience to use your highly placed office to intervene on the lingering matter between Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) and the good people of Gbaramatu Kingdom on the oil spillage that occurred at CNL 16-inch Makaraba, Otunana Abiteye Trunk Line in Gbaramatu Kingdom in order to resolve the matter by compelling CNL to, as a matter of liability necessitated by their act and omission, come to the aid of the people before things take an unpleasant turn that might be regrettable.
“This appeal became necessary on the ground that CNL’s approach and body language since the inception of the oil spillage have always shown their total negligence and lack of consciousness of the consequences of their reluctant actions.
“We say this first, because of the health hazards our people have been exposed to as a result of the heavy oil pollution on our rivers. Secondly, the health hazards our people were subjected to suffer as a result of CNL’s continued production activities, avoidance to hold a talk and consistent denial that their facilities had caused any oil spillage.
“Thus, ignoring the plight of our people over the heavy crude oil spill on our waters without any form of concern as regards giving aids to ameliorate the suffering of our people till date.
“This unethical behaviour is gradually affecting the harmonious good working relationship our people had with CNL. More so, this negligence has caused the nation a huge loss of oil revenue for almost a year as production activities have been halted specifically in Makaraba and Otunana flow stations since March 27, 2021 till date.
“We make deliberate effort to bring you this notice as the regulator of the actions and inactions of the various oil and gas companies operating the upstream petroleum sector in Nigeria for which CNL is one to act swiftly to avert the resort to self-help as the build-up of issues on this CNL oil spill was never and is still not pleasant.”
The community alleged that CNL has not depicted itself as an International Oil Company (IOC) with ethics that uphold global best practices, and commitment to human and environmental dignity as it concerns the oil spill.
“It is rather unfortunate to note here that up till now, CNL has not depicted itself as an International Oil Company (IOC) with ethics that uphold global best practices, and commitment to human and environmental dignity as it concerns this oil spill.
“Therefore, whatsoever CNL is meant to face in the coming days due to this lingering spill issue is an upshot of the fact that CNL has seemingly stooped so low to have allowed itself to be used by some of its highly placed officials, especially in its Policy, Government and Public Affairs (PGPA) department to service their tribal hegemony against the Gbaramatu people.
“It is on this note we crave your indulgence, as we bring to your notice in summary background of issues on the spill as they led to the Joint Investigation (JIV) conducted on April 2, 2022 in the presence of the Delta State government ably led by the honourable Commissioner for Oil and Gas, Hon. Prince Emman Amgbaduba, the CNL team and the Gbaramatu communities that confirmed it was actually from CNL 16-inch pipe carrying crude oil from its Makaraba and Otunana flow stations to Abiteye that had caused the heavy oil spill.
“Because CNL authorities had earlier dismissed claim by the communities that there was a suspected oil spill in that area. Keen on this position, CNL continued to spill oil on our rivers for over two months before Gbaramatu Kingdom authorities was forced to take measures to stop CNL Abiteye, Otunana and Makaraba operations on March 26 and 27 2021 respectively to avert total destruction of our aqua ecosystem, and exposing our people to more disastrous health condition.
“Meanwhile, the oil spill was first noticed on January 18, 2021 by indigenes of Benikrukru community and was reported to the community leaders who made effort to report this to the CNL authorities that promised to investigate the source of the crude oil seen floating on the waterways. After days went by, the PGPA reached back and said the oil spill was not from CNL facilities.
“We all believed them at first, as we were not convinced that it was the suspected CNL 16-inch pipe that was spilling crude oil, as most of us believed that CNL is a multinational oil company, well equipped with modern facilities to quickly notice from their monitoring system if there was even a drop of oil from their facility.
“However, our doubt was erased as weeks went by the quantity of oil kept increasing on the surface of the river and most community’s riverbank had been largely polluted to the point it started to have devastating physical health effects on indigenes causing a lady fainting from suffocation, amounting from the gas fume. By this time, further efforts made by various community leaders to engage with the management of CNL to wilfully shut down its operations for proper investigation into the cause of the heavy oil spill proved abortive as its authorities saddled with the responsibility to approve such investigation continually denied the fact that the spillage was from CNL facility.
“Amounting from the frustration caused by the effect of the oil spillage which stopped fishing activities in the area and had posed serious life threat to indigenes; as people continually struggled for their own lives due to the excruciating stench and suffocation from the gas fume in circulation, women and youths of the kingdom mobilised in their numbers to occupy the Abiteye, Makaraba and Otunana flow stations on March 26 and 27, 2021 to forcefully shutdown the operations of CNL in those facilities vowing that until a proper Joint Investigation is carried out in order to ascertain the point from where this heavy oil spill that had continued for over two months is, CNL will not continue its operation in those stations. This action which was done in good faith drew the attention of the Delta State Government to arbitrate on the matter.
“At the event of shutting down CNL operations in the flow stations of Abiteye, Makaraba and Otunana by the women and youths of Gbaramatu Kingdoms, the Delta State Governor, His Excellency Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, sent an emissary for a fact-finding mission. This team was led by Hon. Prince Emma Amgbaduba, the Commissioner for Oil and Gas to the affected CNL fields to speak with the protesters and plead with them to evacuate the platforms in order to entrust the matter in the hands of the state government who share in their plight and promise to resolve the issue timely.
“The protesters agreed and subsequently evacuated the CNL facilities on the reassurance of His Royal Majesty, Oboro Gbaraun II, Aketekpe Agadagba, The Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom, of the intervention of the Delta State Government. Indeed, meetings were initiated by the Delta State Government.
“The first meeting was on April 12, 2021 which was presided over by the Secretary to the State Government, subsequent meetings were presided over by His Excellency Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, the governor himself was called on April 19, 2021 and others on later dates to ensure a speedy conduct of the JIV to ascertain the actual cause of oil spill and CNL to make possible repair if it was confirmed to be its facility and start operation again.
“This was the clear direction of the state government but this effort by the government was never taken seriously by the authorities in CNL as they were seen to be fueling tribal cold war between the Gbaramatu people and our neighbors who they (CNL Reps) share tribal affinity with.
“The CNL representatives were often seen to have seemingly conducted themselves in an unwilling manner to authorize the Joint Investigation of the spill without, perhaps, their tribal interest. It was this unwillingness by CNL to authorize the commencement of the JIV that lingered for over a year even as its Makaraba and Otunana flow stations remain shut down.
“They could not operate those stations as any attempt to push oil through the suspected leaking pipe that transverse the Makaraba Otunana flow stations to Abiteye will cause further oil spill in the area.
“The Delta State Government made deliberate effort to ensure that the JIV was done and eventually after many failed attempts for over a year, the JIV was conducted on April 2, 2022 and it was established that it was, indeed, the 16-inch CNL pipe transporting oil from Makaraba and Otunana flow station to Abiteye that had pinhole leakage which CNL had denied its leaking condition from early days of January to March 27, 2021 when the communities forcefully shut its operation to save CNL from further operational ethical embarrassment.
“The outcome of the JIV, involving Gbaramatu Kingdom and Chevron Nigeria Limited on the CNL 16-inch Makaraba Otunana Abiteye Truck line oil spillage clearly demonstrated that, THE SPILLAGE WAS CAUSED BY EQUIPMENT FAILURE. In lieu to this finding, it is expected that CNL send relieve materials to the people of Gbaramatu Kingdom and any other impacted communities and begin the process of conducting a proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in order to ascertain the extent of damages done by the heavy and prolonged oil spillage and subsequently set out measure for proper clean-up of the environment.
“Sadly, up until now, the management of CNL have not deemed it necessary to send any aids to our people and conduct an EIA and based on its report, begin the process to pay the requisite compensation to our people who are seriously affected by the oil spillage. We find this worrisome, and wish to appeal to you and all wellmeaning Nigerians to prevail on CNL to do the needful.
“This is because we will not continue to fold our hands and watch the incessant devastation of our people, our means of livelihood and our environment by CNL without any sense of responsibility.
“From the foregoing, we hereby resolved that if this painstaking appeal is not acted upon within the next 7 working days in a convincing positive way that will compel CNL to take full responsibility for the oil spillage that occurred on its 16-inch Makaraba Otunana Abiteye Trunk Line and other lingering issues, targeted at undermining our stakeholder-ship by a privileged few within the CNL system which we have communicated to you in this protest letter, we shall not be held responsible for our resort to self-help measures in order to compel CNL to face the consequences of its defiant operational ethics that has undermined our health, environment and food security.”
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