Angered by decades of alleged despoliation that has reportedly left their community in ruins, the people of Brass Kingdom in Bayelsa State are seeking remediation and compensation for a reported 150,000 barrels of toxic waste being discharged daily into Brass river by Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NOAC).
According to the community, the amount of toxic waste discharged by NAOC at its brass terminal was estimated to have topped 2.6 billion barrels in about 48 years. According to community leaders all the crude oil production by Agip ” are piped to Brass from all their land and swamp locations.”
Energy experts posit that under normal circumstances this dynamics should not be so given the fact that waste and treatment ought be carried out at their various production locations rather than allegedly piping all crude oil production to Brass.
The continuous huge discharge of toxic waste over the years dumped into the Brass canal due to the operational activities of the company in the area has brought about environmental pollution to their source of livelyhood in the Brass river as well as their farmlands.
The leaders of the Brass Kingdom, through their legal counsel, Hon. Iniruo Wills and Dr. Dickson E.Omukoro of the Ntephe, Smith and Wills law chambers, in a letter to the Nigerian Agip Oil Company(NAOC), said repeated promises and failures have been made by Agip management to the Bayelsa State Government and its host communities in Brass Local Government. They stated that the continued annual discharge of the over 150,000 barrels of toxic waste by Italian oil giant into the brass river through the canal has contaminated soil, ground waters and air quality of the area and degraded the health and livelihood of the people of brass kingdom.
The community pointed out that the letter is a reminder to the company for the “desperate need for proper remediation of ecological damage caused by the continual discharge of toxic waste at your brass terminal every day for 48 years, the community need adequate compensation based on impartial impact assessment and a restoration and pollution prevention plan per best practice.”
The Brass Kingdom also drew the attention of NOAC management to the current long-drawn process for finding a lasting resolution of the continual scourge from Brass Canal/Oil terminal has triggered lots of petitions and subsequent exchanges and engagement with yourselves, the office of the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and other regulatory agencies.
In the letter to Agip and addressed to the Managing Director, the people of Brass Kingdom insisted that though they have remained patient and law abiding over the issue, “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 comprehensive inpact assessment and to corruptly waive NOAC’s environmental obligations to the people of the Brass Kingdom. The backdoor attempts referenced are examples of the practice of some oil industry operators that has caused protracted conflict and insecurity in the Niger Delta. Which NOAC should be wary of.”
On the series of engagement among the various stakeholders, regulatory agencies and the people of Brass Kingdom, the Counsels to the Brass Kingdom accused Agip of “persistently trying to frustrate the conduct of the CIA directed by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and allegedly hood winked the people of Brass Kingdom into signing away their constitutionally guaranteed rights to a clean, healthy environment and adequate compensation for damage suffered.
“NOAC’s latest scheme to avoid liability has been to smuggle an environmental liability waiver clause into hastily proposed CRS Memorandum of Understanding, despite refusing to sign any MoU on SCR projects since 2014 and to put massive pressure on selected community leaders to sign it, thereby creating a potential blackmail tool against the kingdom and its people. The draft ouster clause, unprecedented even in a military rule setting.”
“There are also indications that, the defective tender notice having failed, NOAC may now be trying to surreptitiously stampede influential community figures to commit in advance to supporting NOAC’s arbitrarily preferred contractor for a phantom remediation project without submitting itself to the conduct of the CIA that will determine appropriate remediation measures, scope and design, without transparently following due contracting processes applicable to the Federal Government Joint Venture (JV) operations in the oil industry”.
“NOAC continue to insist expressly and by conduct that it would use its own unilateral study as a basis for remediation emboldened by the presumption that it has succeeded in delaying or preventing the regulatory MDAs from conducting CIA thus far. As you know, a person’s cannot be judge in his own case and a defaulter. In this case a chronic violator, cannot write his own investigation. NOAC conduct is reckless and in serial violation of national and international environmental laws and treaties-civil and criminal, disregard all known norms of corporate responsibilities and ethics.”
The New Diplomat recalls the NAOC has been linked to despoliation in Bayelsa community in the past due to its oil production activities. In 2017, the Ikebiri community in Bayelsa dragged the oil giant to an Italian court in Milan over a 2010 oil spill that destroyed livelihoods in the community.
The community, comprising several mostly fishing villages, said the oil company offered a N4.5 million compensation for the spill, a minute fraction of the €2 million it is demanding.
Also, Agip’s oil Ogboinbiri-Tebidaba pipeline multiple spills in Southern Ijaw local government area of Bayelsa have severely impacted local lives and farming lands over the years.
The NAOC, the Nigerian subsidiary of Italian oil giant, ENI, operates in the Niger Delta under a joint venture agreement with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (60 per cent), NAOC (20 per cent), and Oando (20 per cent).
The National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) in its response, confirmed the incidents. NOSDRA revealed that the two recent spills from Agip’s oil fields in Southern Ijaw and Brass Local Government Areas of Bayelsa were caused by equipment failure arising from Agip’s operations.
Mr Idris Musa, Director-General, NOSDRA, said his team visited both incidents in Southern Ijaw and Brass. With respect to Brass for example, the NOSDRA D-G said top officials of the agency who conducted a Joint Investigative Visit (JIV) to the 24″ Ogoda-Brass trunk line site at Okpoama in Brass where a leak discharged a yet-to-be ascertained volume of crude oil into the environment discovered that it was caused by equipment failure.