The House of Representatives Committee on Environment has appointed an ad hoc committee on the October 2012 oil spill that affected 25 communities in Ndokwa-West Local Government Area of Delta State.
The committee is to determine the amount of compensation Nigerian Agip Oil Company, owners of the Kwale/Akiri 10″ pipeline, will pay to the communities.
The ruptured pipeline had caused the spill.
But, 11 of the communities have already placed a demand of N1bn as damages.
The Chairman of the committee, Mrs. Uche Ekwunife, explained in Abuja that three lawmakers would serve on the ad hoc committee; one member from the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency; two representatives from the 11 communities that demanded N1bn; one person from Department of Petroleum Resources; and two members of staff of NAOC.
While AGIP is claiming to have compensated “most” of the communities, the House committee is unhappy that the oil company is treating the matter with levity.
According to Ekwunife, the company has allegedly done everything within its means to frustrate the compensation demand by the affected communities.
She stated, “This is a deliberate attempt and this is what Agip has been doing for the past one year.
“You destroyed their land and communities and frustrated them from getting justice?”
The lawmaker did not spare the Department of Petroleum Resources either, accusing the agency of colluding with oil firms most times.
“That is what we are saying; that DPR should not be part of govt. This responsibility must be put in private hands. Now you are colluding with the IOCs,” she said.
However, DPR’s Head, Health Safety and Environment, Dorothy Bassey, denied knowledge of the petitions by the communities on the spill.
On its part, NOSDRA had informed the committee that over 589 barrels of crude oil was lost during the spill, though it said 180 barrels were recovered later.
A representative of the 11 communities, Mr. Victor Enoyinje, debunked AGIP’s claim of having paid adequate compensation to them.
He told the committee that the company offered N500,000, which was rejected.
He argued that AGIP ought to have replaced the 40-year old pipeline before it ruptured, adding that no member of the communities was consulted before the company decided on the N500,000.
Enoyinje added that the money was too small compared to the value of fish ponds, creeks, fishing channels, waterways, juju shrines, cash crops and economic trees lost to the spill.
In its defence, Agip blamed the spill on “flooding”, which it could not control.
The Deputy Division Manager, Mr. Chidozie Okafor, told the committee some of the communities had actually been compensated but that progress on the matter was caused by disagreements among the communities.
Deputy Division Manager, District Legal Services, however agreed that there was a spill nut blamed it on “the flooding of 2012 which damaged our equipment.”