After weeks of prolonged rift with host communities and the resulting degradation of the environment, the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) has commenced the recovery of spilled crude from its Adibawa oil fields.
Mr. Sunny Jacob Ubele, the traditional ruler of Edagberi community, said on Thursday that the oil recovery started on Tuesday after the resolution of a faceoff between the officials of SPDC and the Chairman of Ahoada West Local Government in Rivers State.
Mr. Ubele said that the community cooperated with officials of the oil firm, but expressed reservations when Shell authorities attempted to manipulate the Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) procedure.
“It is very untrue that we denied them access, if we did, how did they managed to stop the spill?” Mr. Ubele said.
“They had fixed a JIV on our meeting day and we told them to fix it for the next day,” he added.
Mr. Ubele continued by saying that “when we went there with them we found out they went to the site unilaterally and tampered with the evidence that would assist us in arriving at conclusions, so we told them that we were excluded from that exercise.”
"We pointed out to them what they did and we declined to sign the JIV reports because we were not part of it. Therefore, the JIV was inconclusive.
Meanwhile, SPDC said that the oil leakage from its oil fields located in Edagberi community in Rivers State was caused by thieves who targeted the wellhead.
A statement from Mr Joseph Obari, an SPDC spokesman, said that the organization regretted the delay to an investigation of a leak at Adibawa-well-8 in the Eastern Niger Delta, where a suspected attempt to steal the wellhead led to a spill.
The oil firm also alleged that members of its host community were thwarting the efforts of the oil firm to contain the leakage and remediate the polluted environment.
"Following a reported spill at Adibawa-well-8 in the Eastern Niger Delta reported July 12, the statutory Joint Investigation Visit remains delayed.”
“The Caretaker Committee Chairman of Ahoada West Local Government, Ikechukwu Obuzor, is leading mediation after the leadership of the Edagberi Betterland community prevented the representatives of industry regulatory agencies, the Rivers State Ministry of Environment and SPDC, from accessing the spill site.”
"After a seeming agreement last week by the leadership of Edagberi Betterland community for oil recovery to commence, a group of youths demanding payment of money and employment refused to give the SPDC Oil Spill Response team access to the site.”
"SPDC regrets the continued delay to recovery of the spilled oil,” the statement added.
It added that the leak was stopped on July 15, but attempts to conduct the statutory JIV on July 16 and 17th to determine the cause and extent of the leak were unsuccessful.
According to the statement, without the JIV, SPDC cannot carry out badly-needed cleanup and remediation of the site.