As the Bukola Saraki led Senate Committee on Environment was giving a clean bill of health to Shell following a closed door meeting and a guided tour of the Bonga oil spill incident at the weekend, environmentalists and fishermen were expressing divergent views with Shell.
Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), in a report published by its Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey, said that oil from Bonga fields had reached the coastline in Odioama Community, Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
The justification for the commendation of the Senators remains unclear in view of the obvious flaws and cover ups by Shell but SaharaReporters sources in the oil industry attributed the disposition of the Senate to a large bribe given to by the oil firm to facilitate a favorable view.
SaharaReporters gathered that Shell disbursed large sums of money to newsmen to forestall any negative publicity that would attract international attention and pressure to the oil firm.
Mr. Bassey said that a visit to the impacted site by environmental monitors from ERA/FoEN, along with members of the impacted community, showed that fishermen from the community have sighted oil deposits at the shoreline.
Shell had selected a team of Lagos-based reporters who were flown to Bonga and handsomely paid to secure favourable reportage of the spill which the company claimed it had contained although oil contamination of the coastline is yet to be addressed.
A beneficiary of the largesse who declined to disclose the figure he received said that some of the energy correspondents left out by Shell were making a case to be accommodated in the oil spill bribe-fest which is being spearheaded by the Media Relations Department of Shell.
It was on December 23 that local fishermen in Akwa Ibom reported sighting crude oil suspected to have leaked from Shell’s Bonga oil field in the Atlantic waters near the coastline.
The fishermen reportedly sighted the oil slick less than 20 kilometers from the shoreline and first assumed that the spill had emanated from Qua Iboe Oil fields until news of the spill filtered into the state.
Some coastal settlements in Akwa Ibom have also reported sighting oil deposits and sediments of oil broken down by chemical dispersants deployed by Shell to contain the spill.
Shell had on December 21 announced the leakage of some 40,000 barrels of crude into the Atlantic Ocean from its Bonga deep offshore oil fields. It subsequently shut down the facility. Bonga field is located about 120 kilometres off Nigerian coastline.
A statement from Shell claimed that the spill incident had been contained but also that another spill from a yet-to-be-ascertained source was sabotaging its clean-up activities.
The statement, which was signed by Shell’s spokesman, Precious Okolobo, said that remnants of the crude that leaked from bonga had dispersed.
The statement read in part: “The oil from Bonga had largely dispersed. However, around the same time as our efforts to clean up the Bonga oil offshore were coming to a successful conclusion, we noticed a clear trail of oil that we believe could not have been from Bonga. This trail of oil was fresh and clearly from a vessel given the distinctly different colour, shape and smell.
“As any good corporate citizen, we immediately began to address this fresh spill with dispersants. Unfortunately, our efforts were not completely successful and we now know some of the oil has hit isolated parts of the beach. Though this oil did not come from Bonga, we will clean it up.
“We have also taken samples of this oil which will be analysed by an independent lab. We are confident the results will show the oil on the beach or in these areas is not from the Bonga facility.”
In its report, ERA/FoEN urged the federal government to conduct an independent investigation to ascertain the actual volume of oil that spilled from Bonga, and compel Shell to pay adequate compensation to the communities affected.