– Joint inspection begins but community wants UNEP in action
The Brass community in Bayelsa State has caused what looks like sensation by dragging an oil multinational corporation to the United Nations, alleging that the company had for 40 years pumped strange wastes into their waters through a canal that looked harmless.
Now, officials of the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) have escorted a joint inspection team to the zone of conflict led by N O Jipreze, Director of Legal Services in the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources with other members drawn from the Federal Ministry of Environment, NOSDRA, DPR and NPDC on the 6th of March, 2018.
The Brass community, through their lawyers and leaders are however calling on the international community, the United Nations Environment Programme ( UNEP), the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the World Health Organisation ( WHO), “to compel Agip to enforce and implement comprehensive remediation, restoration and safeguard-programme based on credible impact study and adequate valuation-based compensation and other remedies to entrench environmental justice”. They want nothing shot of the Ogoni approach.
Problem began when the community lodged a complaint with the Minister of Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, on January 24, 2018. The petition said the people were peeved by alleged ‘insensitivity’ of the oil multinational after having failed to get its management to review the environmental challenges and pollution threat in the area. Brass is led in the fight by legal representative, Iniruo Wills.
The battle is being supported by the chiefs, elders and stakeholders in Brass who have insisted on the engagement of world class independent assessors to investigate and assess the extent of the cumulative impact of the environmental damage suffered by the people in the oceanic area. This is said to be for the purpose of eventual remediation of ecological disruption in Brass ethnic nationality.
Wills and a team of environment experts had made presentations to the Petroleum Minster, drawing his attention to the damage done in the community as a result of the effluent discharged continually on a daily basis for over 40 years. “The most egregious damage was wrought on the Brass River which serves the people through an artificial canal dug by the NAOC in the 1970’s.”
Moved by the severity and imminent danger the reported pollution threat posed to the Community, the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources , had empanelled a Joint Ministerial visitation Committee, to investigate the issues raised at the NAOC terminal located at Brass to ascertain the impact of the pollution threat.
The people of Brass told the Visitation Team that they have suffered over 40 years of the exploitation and exploration of oil and other activities by Agip in the area, especially the negative effect of the artificial canals and dug-out pits used in the discharge of effluents from its operation in the community since the early 1970’s. Insiders said the people were not aware of what was being discharged through the canal over the years until a recent discovery.
The king and Amayanabo of Twon Brass, Alfred Diete-Spiff, firt governor of old Rivers State, during a courtesy call by the investigative panel at his palace in Twon Brass, disclosed that there was a Memorandum of Understanding ( M.o.U) between AGIP and the community at the time of the excavation of the canal when the company was given the license to start operation in Brass. A major grouse is that a critical condition in the MoU that calls for regular inspection by reputable experts has not done in the past 40 years.
On their side, however, Dan-Jombo, the Operational Divisional Manager of Agip, who led the investigation at the terminal, said that they had done their work diligently. He promised to report back to base accordingly.