AN URGENT APPEAL TO HIS EXCELLENCY GOVERNOR DOUYE DIRI FOR SWIFT INTERVENTION BETWEEN NIGERIAN AGIP OIL COMPANY (NAOC) LIMITED AND IKEBIRI KINGDOM OVER THE RECENT  OIL SPILL.

URGENT APPEAL TO HIS EXCELLENCY GOVERNOR DOUYE DIRI FOR SWIFT INTERVENTION

Piriye Kiyaramo

Your Excellency, we are members of Ikebiri Development Foundation, IDF, an umbrella elite group out to champion development for Ikebiri kingdom, comprising, Ikebiri 1, 2, 3 and 4 communities in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

We represent a platform for meaningful dialogue and partnership with critical stakeholders in government, the private sector and civil society, with a view to formulating effective strategies for sustainable development and peace through the application of conflict sensitive approaches to community development.

Allow us to draw your attention to the display of insensitivity and irresponsibility by the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NOAC) Limited towards the plight of her host communities and her citizens, with particular reference to the recent oil spill in Ikebiri kingdom which has reportedly devastated over seventy hectares of farmland and polluted the aquatic ecosystem of the area.

We recall that the spill occurred since June 5, 2020 from the 10-inches Tebidaba/Clough Creek Pipeline belonging to Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) Limited. In accordance with the regulatory agency’s guidelines, a joint inspection team was constituted, comprising representatives from the federal and Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment, NAOC, IDF and Ikebiri communities to ascertain the cause of spill which was certified to be equipment failure.

The company has not bothered to respond to the plight of the people, particularly the health condition of women, children, elderly and other vulnerable groups in the affected communities, whose source of livelihood has been completely ruined by the oil spill. As we write this, NAOC has not thought it necessary to send palliatives or relief materials. This amounts to a complete failure on the part of NAOC’s corporate social responsibility policy, and a blatant trespass against the economic and environment rights of our communities.

Your Excellency, with pain in our hearts, we recall a previous ugly incident in the kingdom, involving seven of our able-bodied youths, namely: Ziniama Kontei Ayakoroama, Wisdom Matthew, Layefa Igoli, Weniebi Idoloakpa Ayawei, Nimi Belebotei, Oweilayefa Ebimo and Williams Osain. They were shot dead on April 19, 1999, by armed escorts accompanying a NAOC maintenance crew, while on their way to attend a meeting with the then state commissioner of police in Yenagoa.

Knowing how disputes over natural resources easily degenerate into full scale crisis between oil companies and host communities when poorly handled, members of Ikebiri Development Foundation deem it appropriate to draw your attention to the recent developments that may culminate in a full crisis between Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) and Ikebiri Kingdom, if government is not quick enough to intervene.

We have every reason to detest the double standards in the community relations policy promoted by the Nigerian Agip Oil Company towards her host communities. For over four decades now, the company has been exploiting the natural wealth of Ikebiri Kingdom, and the result has been repeated conflict and violence that has continued to threaten security in the area and, by extension, the national economy. The developmental challenges facing our kingdom are still shaped by a turbulent history traceable to long standing grievances that could be provoked afresh by the negligence of the multinational oil company.

Your Excellency will bear witness that peaceful oil and gas exploration operations of multinational companies across the globe depend on effective corporate social responsibility towards host communities. Even so, Nigerian Agip Oil Company which commenced oil and gas exploration in Ikebiri Kingdom since 1972 has continued to undermine the rights and privileges of the host communities, resulting in loss of lives and property over the years. Needless to say, the recent oil spill in Ikebiri Kingdom has affected both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in the area, due to the harmful effect of petroleum hydrocarbons to the entire ecosystem.

If the poor state of affairs is left unattended by government, the activities of the company are likely to suffer intermittent  disruptions which could lead to  drop  in  productivity and loss  of  revenue, if not total withdrawal of the company from the area, on grounds of insecurity.

What’s more, the lopsided employment policies of Nigerian Agip Oil Company have often attracted negative reactions from indigenes of the host communities, and occasioned repeated threats to peace and security in the area. It is of paramount importance that every anomaly relating to employment be holistically addressed to avert crisis.

We appeal to Your Excellency to use your good offices to prevail on the Nigerian Agip Oil Company to assess in good time the impact of the oil spill on economic activities of the affected communities and respond accordingly by sending commensurate relief materials alongside a medical team to the communities, while we await the outcome of an official round-table negotiation under the supervision of the state government and relevant experts to resolve the brewing dispute between the impacted host communities and Nigerian Agip Oil Company.

Our simple prayer is that Nigerian Agip Oil Company should review her corporate relationship with communities in Ikebiri Kingdom, including Ikebiri I, II, III and IV in a bid to enhance cordial relations, maintain peaceful co-existence and ensure smooth business operations in the kingdom.

We seek your government’s quick intervention to prevail on the company to undertake an immediate re-evaluation of her corporate social responsibility towards the host communities with a view to improving service delivery to forestall any likely adverse consequences. Unfolding events in the kingdom with respect to this major oil spill call for concerted efforts from the relevant agencies to engender improved industrial relations between Nigerian Agip Oil Company and her host communities in Ikebiri territory.

Your Excellency, Sir, we heartily appreciate you for your selfless services to humanity, and your disposition to doing good. We are confident that your intervention in this matter will foster peace and speedy development in Ikebiri Kingdom. While anticipating your prompt intervention, kindly be assured of our highest esteem at all times.

Yours faithfully,

Apostle Timiebi Kiyaramo

Chairman, BoT

Pastor Cornelius Timighen

Chairman, IDF Oil and Gas Committe

cc

Stakeholders Manager, Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) Port Harcourt

Bayelsa State Ministry of Mineral Resources

Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment

State Director, DSS

Commissioner of Police

16th Brigade, Nigerian Army

AIG, Zone 16, Yenagoa

FOC Central Naval Command, Yenagoa

Operation Delta Safe

National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA)

HRH Francis Ododo, Paramount Ruler of Ikebiri

Chairmn, Nigeria Union of Journalists, Bayelsa State Council

Yenagoa