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Oil Spill: Sanction Exxonmobil

Akanimo Sampson

Oil Spill: Sanction Exxonmobil, Group Presses Nigerian Govt

OILWATCH Africa, an environmental group concerned with the underbelly activities of the petroleum industry, is currently pressing the Nigerian government to impose heavy sanctions on ExxonMobil, an American oil and gas major, for alleged frequent oil spills in some communities in Akwa Ibom and Rivers States.

The group which is based in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, is claiming that multiple spills from a ruptured pipeline laid by ExxonMobil in 1968 had gone unchecked for over three weeks, impacting several communities in Ibeno Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State and spreading to 15 other communities in Esit Eket and Eket Local Government Areas of the same state

According to the group, the current spill is coming barely two weeks after over 100,000 barrels of crude oil was spewed into the ecosystem from the same facility.

Oilwatch Africa in a statement to AkanimoReports on Monday, said ''ExxonMobil’s action coming at a time similar spill by British Petroleum at the Gulf of Mexico has generated worldwide condemnation and hefty sanctions from the United States government, is a clear indication of ExxonMobil’s disdain not only for the ecosystem but also for the livelihoods of communities that have been impacted by the spills''.

The group lamented that Nigeria leaks as much oil as the current spill in the Gulf of Mexico, every year and that in over five decades of oil exploitation over 7000 separate oil spill events have occurred in the country.

It urged the Nigerian government to immediately set in motion open and transparent process to compel ExxonMobil to take immediate action to contain and curtail the spread of the spill, restore the ecosystem and compensate communities whose livelihoods have been impacted upon.

For Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of the Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) and an International Steering Committee Member of Oilwatch International, ''it is still a puzzle that the Nigerian government is still entangled in an unholy wedlock with the oil industry''.

Continuing, he said, ''by now, we expect the Nigerian government to take a cue from the US government’s response to the Gulf of Mexico incident by instituting criminal charges against individuals and businesses that have destroyed local livelihoods and compel them to pay for what it would cost to restore the ecosystem''.

Bassey, who is also the Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action (ERA), the Nigerian wing of Friends of the Earth said it was disturbing that it took vigorous protests of communities for the oil company to ''grudgingly accept responsibility'' for the spill, and made a pledge to clamp the leaking oil pipeline and to make available relief materials to affected communities.

Adding, the ERA and Oilwatch Africa boss said, ''it is even more disheartening that in addressing this ecological disaster, our own government decided to hide behind closed doors and allowed itself to take the unprecedented step of barring the press from being part of the resolution of an issue which affects us all''.

Bassey said it is appropriate to remind the Nigerian government about the steps taken by the U.S government as the spill in the Gulf of Mexico evolved, especially the mobilization of over 20,000 people and 1,300 vessels to join in the efforts to stop the oil from reaching ecologically sensitive wetlands and to participate in the immediate process of remediation of the ecosystem.

They querried, ''will the mouthpieces of the oil industry in our government claim ignorance of US government insistence that BP sucks its spill and pledge $20 billion as an initial step to deal with the immediate, medium term and long term impact of the spill?'

They stressed that for true and lasting peace in the Niger Delta, the Nigerian government must actively pursue an economic diversification agenda that reduces dependence on oil as a single major revenue earner because present global realities is a world moving towards non -fossil based development

Mobil Producing Nigeria, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, finally on Thursday admitted its facilities in Akwa Ibom State, spewed some crude that affected Bonny Island in Rivers State.

Their response came three days after our correspondent had been pressing company officials for comments on the incident which occured the previous Saturday.

Mr. Akaniyere Esiere, spokesperson for the American oil giant told AkanimoReports that it was a very minor discharge. But local sources in Eket, Akwa Ibom State, some of whom included past operatives of the oil company claimed on Wednesday night that ExxonMobil is an insensitive company on oil spill issues.

According to the sources, Nigerian officials who have risen to the positions of directors and managers are the major problem of the company. A former company functionary specificall said, ''the worse top managers of ExxonMobil are those of Akwa Ibom origin''.

In a text message to AkanimoReports, Mr. Esiere, however, said, ''Mobil Producing Nigeria confirms that a very minor discharge occurred at Yoho production platform. Regulatory authorities were notified and discharge was dispersed and evacuated''.

It was being alleged at the time that some 10,000 barrels of crude was involved. While this was not immediately ascertain, a former company worker claimed that minor discharges are almost a daily occurence in ExxonMobil facilities in Eket. This claim tends to give credence to Oilwatch Africa which is putting the current spill at over 100,000 barrels.

Local fishermen in Bonny, a bustling natural gas island of Rivers State, on Monday blew the whistle on the current incident. The fishermen are accusing the oil major of what they described as ''a desperate attempt'' to cover up a fresh oil spill in the area.

According to the fishermen, ''a catastrophic oil spill occured last Saturday at ExxonMobil's Yoho oilfield location in Akwa Ibom state''. The fishermen are operating under the name, Organization of Fishermen, Sea food Dealers and Farmers in Niger Delta (OFSDF/ND).

Chairman of the group's board of trustees, Mr. Richard Abbey, on Monday claimed that the spill occurred around 4.30 - 5pm during the loading of a foreign vessel, Northstar, on Saturday June 19, 2010, when suddenly a burst from the host linking the Yoho field location, to the company’s Floating, Storage, Offloading, (FSO) tanker.

The spill, he insisted, has gradually spread to Amanam, Chevron oil field and the Bonny anchorage in Bonny Island, Rivers state.


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