Bayelsa Community Boils over Pollution of Canal by Italian Oil Major

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An Italian energy major, Eni, that is operating an offshore oil terminal in Bayelsa State, has run into trouble with its host community.

Brass, a coastal community in Bayelsa is demanding remediation on their environment and economic damages to their canal by the Brass Crude Export Terminal for the past 48 years.

The community lawyers from Ntephe, Smith and Wills, a reputable law firm, made the demand in a letter dated May 25 to the Managing Director of Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC).

NAOC is a subsidiary of Eni operating the offshore oil terminal along with some onshore oil block in the swamps of Bayelsa in addition to Joint Venture stakes in other fields operated by Shell in Bayelsa.

The Brass community lawyers are claiming that the remediation of the canal is overdue and being delayed by the oil firm.

It is also being claimed that there is a subsisting regulatory directive to the Italian oil company to conduct a Comprehensive Impact Assessment (CIA) to determine the effect of the facility and proffer remedy and compensation.

They are equally alleging that the oil company has delayed the implementation of a joint inter-agency site visit to resolve the issue and commence remediation of the impacted areas.

“In furtherance of the human security, economic and environmental interests of your hosts, Brass Kingdom, touching also on Nigeria’s national interests and Bayelsa state’s strategic interest, we remind you to an overdue obligation on the Brass Canal viz.

“Proper remediation of ecological damage caused by the continuous discharge of toxic wastes at your Brass Terminal every day for the past 48 years/adequate compensation based on impartial impact assessment, a restoration and pollution prevention plan as per best practices.

“We put you on notice to stop desperate attempts by your officers to compromise or induce key interests, aimed at evading regulatory compliance, frustrating the Ministerial directive for an independent Comprehension Impact Assessment as a basis for adequate remediation and compensation”, the lawyers’ letter says.

The community wants the oil company to refrain from efforts to waive its environmental obligations to them by inserting obnoxious clauses into draft Memorandum of Understanding with the people.

The community ascertained during a visit to the Brass Canal in 2015 by Environmental and Legal experts that daily discharge of some 150,000 barrels of toxic waste consisting of untreated produce water and sludge.

The community said that on a cumulative basis the volume of toxic discharge to the Brass Canal amounts to 54.8 million barrels annually and approximately 2.6 billion barrels for the past 48 years.

They said that it was also ascertained that contaminant rate in the Brass Canal ranged from 200 per cent to 1000 per cent above regulatory limits as well as soil, groundwater and air quality pollution are also adversely affecting public health.

The community, therefore, urged Agip to in the interest of justice and amicable resolution indicate interest to cooperate with the inter-agency regulatory team in the conduct of a credible assessment with equal representation by both parties.

However, when contacted for comments Eni, the parent company of NAOC declined comments.

Media Relations Manager in charge of Sub-Saharan Africa, Cionni Marilia, had pledged to look into the matter and revert but Is yet to do so.

 

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