By Oke Peter
The Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), says the degradation of the environment in the Niger is mainly due to spillages from the activities of crude oil thieves, sabotage of facilities, illegal refining and other third party interferences, rather than negligence by the company.
Representatives of the oil multinational firm who spoke in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, during the 2017 West Hub Integrated Stakeholders Engagement Forum for Tarakiri/Egbemo/Oporomor communities, urged all stakeholders to rethink the destruction being done to the environment with a view to effecting the needed change.
Some of those who made presentations during the event attended by monarchs, youth groups, leaders of local communities, industry experts, government reps as well as security agencies included the company’s Asset Manager, Swamp West Hub, Mesh Maichibi; Alaiye Dokubo, Government Relations Manager for Edo/Delta and Jerry Udjo, Community lnterface Coordinator, and the Special Adviser on Security to Bayelsa Governor, Boma Spero-Jack.
The company noted that though security remains a major issue in the region, through the assistance of stakeholders, including the activities of security agencies operating in the region, it was able to halve sabotage-related cases in 2016 compared to the previous year.
While taking responsibility for just 10 per cent of the spills in the region, Shell maintained that irrespective of the cause, the SPDC would continue to clean and remediate areas affected by spills originating from its facilities.
It also attributed the reduction in spillages partly to the company’s continuous improvement in air and ground surveillance.
Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Maichibi decried the despoliation of the environment caused by the acts of sabotage and the effect it is likely to have on future generations and urged oil thieves and illegal refiners to look beyond the temporary gains.
“We need to understand what is happening to us in the Niger Delta. If we don’t protect this land, we do not have a future and our children’s children will ask us what we did when it happened. How do we protect this land? We don’t need to engage in illegal bunkering, don’t break pipelines etc.
“We all need to come together and talk to our boys in those areas. If we don’t, they will continue and we will have an environment that is dilapidated,” he said.
Maichibi said whereas in the past, the company initiated projects for the host communities, the new Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) policy entails that the oil-producing communities initiate and take ownership of the projects throughout the region.
The Special Adviser on Security in Bayelsa, Spero-Jack, in his remarks, told the stakeholders that investments could only come to the state when there is peace.
He narrated stories of killings and mindless waste of lives before his principal, Governor Seriake Dickson took over government in 2012, adding that relative peace had returned to the Niger Delta region.
The government representative said it was as a result of the insecurity that made construction giants, Julius Berger and RCC leave the region, but said kidnapping and pitch had reduced by 70 per cent due to the new approach to security in Bayelsa and the Niger Delta by extension.