By Ebi Perekeme
An Environmentalist, and Chairman, Board of trustees, Centre for Environmental Preservation and Development (CEPAD), Mr Furoebi Akene, has attributed the dead fishes littering the Niger Delta coastline to the discharge of toxic chemicals from Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC)’s operations at Forcados oil export terminal.
Akene who spoke with DAILY POST on Sunday in Yenagoa reacted to NOSDRA’s position that it found no oil spills linking the massive death of fishes floating near the Atlantic coastline in Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom.
Akene alleged that Shell discharged toxic materials in the Atlantic off Delta coastline at Ogulagha.
He said that while he agrees that the dead fishes were not caused by oil leakage as found out by NOSDRA, the disclosure was capable of misleading conclusions as the investigation results were being awaited by stakeholders.
“It has also become common knowledge that the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) discharged sludge mixed with chemicals into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
“The discharge occurred through one of their waste disposal pipes from the Forcados Terminal around Ogulagha and was not oil spill from any of the trunk line pipes conveying crude oil from the Forcados terminal.
“The conspiracy between SPDC and NOSDRA has become very strong since the DG of NOSDRA is making all efforts to downplay the act and divert attention.
“It is heartbreaking and surprising that a Federal Government Regulatory Agency, the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) is just waking up with a press release.
“The NOSDRA Director-General himself Mr. Idris Olubola Musa acted belatedly almost three months since the incident happened around the end of January 2020, after he earlier gave excuses that the COVID-19 was hindering him.
“Not only the belated nature of the response but the premature position while the results are awaited is intended to shield or conceal the real cause of the matter, the facility that caused it and the owners of the facility.
“This is quite unfortunate of a regulation agency. We are using this medium to appeal to NOSDRA to do the right thing as they are statutorily mandated to do.
“In the same vein, we are urging the Governments of the affected states of Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Ondo and their respective National Assembly members and State Assembly members to rise to their responsibilities to pursue this matter to its logical conclusion for the lives of their citizens,” Akene said.
In a reaction, Mr Idris Musa, Director-General of NOSDRA dismissed the claims and restated that the committee has a mandate and a more stringent regulation of the maritime domain within Nigerian territorial waters.
Musa said that NOSDRA was coordinating a multi-agency investigation aimed at unravelling the cause of the reported massive death of fishes within the nation’s territorial waters and was looking beyond the oil spill.
He explained that other regulatory agencies with mandates of safety in the maritime space were deploying their expertise in the ongoing investigation assuring that the process was being carried out with best practices.
“The event of the death of fishes in large numbers makes it expedient to look beyond oil spillage as the likely cause of the deaths, as we found no trace of leakage to link with the dead fishes.
“The Agency proceeded to collect samples of water, sediments and some of the dead fish for laboratory testing. In doing so the agency brought on board other relevant agencies of government that have the mandate on our territorial waters.
“Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR), Federal Institute of Fisheries Research.
“Also included, is the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) for an all hands on deck assessment of the possible cause or causes of death of the fishes in such large numbers,” Musa said.
The NOSDRA Chief Executive said that the results of ongoing laboratory analysis would be compared with results from the participating agencies to proffer an effective solution and ensure more stringent regulations in future.
He said it was situations like this that informed the agency’s limitations to the use of chemical dispersants in the water bodies near human settlements and assured that NOSDRA remained committed to a sustainable environment.