Ijaw Diaspora Council demands independent investigation

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The Ijàw Diaspora Congress (IDC) is seeking the intervention of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management in the recent oil spill at Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29 at Nembe, Bayelsa.

The diaspora group with headquarters in Newark, New Jersey, U.S., requested the intervention in a letter dated December 17 and made available on Saturday to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Yenagoa.

In the letter signed by Monday Gold, president and Antonia Garner, vice president, Europe and director of humanitarian and disaster affairs, IDC noted that the leak which was first noticed on November 1 continued unabated until December 8, 2021.

OML29 is operated by Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company, with 51 per cent of the equity belonging to the Federal Government.

The IDC said the spill has far-reaching ecological challenges on the economic health and wellbeing of the impacted areas and the people, pointing out that it spanned from Nembe and its connecting creeks down to the Atlantic Ocean.

The group said while the Bayelsa government and the community attributed the spill to equipment failure, it was awaiting the official position of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA).

The agency is saddled with the mandate to detect, monitor, and manage oil spills in Nigeria.

“We await an evidence-based investigation to ascertain the cause of the spill and its volume.

“The Ijaw Diaspora Council’s Technical Advisor, Rick Steiner, estimates that with 1-2 cubic feet of discharge per second, the blowout would have released a total of 532,000 barrels to 1,064,000 barrels of oil equivalent in the 38 days that the leak lasted.

The group demanded that the failed wellhead be preserved for independent engineering forensic analysis to determine the cause of the failure, in accordance with the advice given by its Technical Advisor, Rick Steiner, a professor.

The IDC insisted that the preservation of the wellhead as evidence should be in conformity with criminal evidentiary procedures in order to prevent any further alteration or adulteration.

The group also sought an engineering analysis of the cause of equipment failure.

The IDC suggested that the investigation be carried out by an independent organisation such as the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) or Det Norsk Veritas (DNV) in Norway.

The group is also seeking an update on the measures taken so far, in terms of humanitarian aid by the federal government to the impacted people and areas.

IDC also urged the federal government to declare the spillage a humanitarian disaster in Ijawland and act accordingly.

According to the group, Aiteo’s slow response time exacerbated the“ catastrophic“ damage that the failed oil and gas wellhead caused to the physical, economic, psychological, and general welfare of the affected communities.

“The lethargic response pace forced the victims into an immediate humanitarian crisis of epic proportions.

“Failure to treat this as a national emergency with global repercussions would be akin to the commission of crimes against humanity under the Human Rights Act and other applicable laws and treaties,” the group said.

The IDC called for the immediate provision of alternative sources of income, necessitated by the loss of sources of livelihood in the over 40 communities.

“The immediate provision of alternative sources of income should span the projected amount of time, potentially decades, that it would take for all the affected communities to economically recover from the extremely calamitous disaster that has befallen Nigeria,” the group said.

(NAN)

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