APPARENTLY to get to the root of the recent oil spill in the country, the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology has summoned the management of Shell Petroleum Company and officials of the Ministry of Environment.
Addressing reporters yesterday, Chairman of the committee, Olubukola Saraki, assured Nigerians that the committee would do all within its powers to see that the spill was contained and further damage prevented through the exercise of its oversight function.
However, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo) said it is putting measures in place to contain the spill that occurred at its Bonga Oil Field offshore on Tuesday.
A statement from Shell’s Corporate Media Relations Manager, Tony Okonedo, said Shell is critically responding to the spill, while the facility remained shut.
He stressed that Shell should not be reminded of its responsibility to contain the spill from getting to the shoreline and also, to be prepared to pay damages that the spill might have or will cause Nigerians living within the area of impact, according to international standards.
“The Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology assures all Nigerians that we are closely monitoring this situation as it unfolds. We will make sure that we do all within our powers to ensure that international practices that guide all oil companies in this type of situations are also followed here in Nigeria, despite the clear handicap of the supervising agency,” Saraki stated.
He said that although no life was lost, the management of National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), as well as other relevant agencies, have been mandated to carry out a credible and independent assessment of the spill.
Unfortunately, the degree of independence of this investigation lies greatly on the very company that caused the damage and other sister companies as NOSDRA lacked the necessary equipment for such action such as boats, vessels to navigate the typical terrain, helicopters, bums, barriers as well as information commmand and control centre.
He added: “We have heard from Shell about actions they have taken such as providing helicopters and vessels deployed to the site. To the best of our knowledge, NOSDRA lacks the necessary equipment such as boats, vessels to navigate the typical terrain, where most of this spills took place, helicopters, bums, barriers and most importantly, information command and control centre to monitor and control this kind of spill, and have to rely almost exclusively on the grace and benevolence of the oil companies.”
Okonedo said the company has obtained additional information on the incident at the Bonga offshore facility, through a satellite picture showing a large area covered by the sheen.
“We now assess that up to 50 per cent of the leaked oil has already dissipated due to natural dispersion and evaporation. As satellite pictures have shown, the overall area covered by the sheen is large. However, the sheen itself is very thin (less than a hundredth of a millimeter) in most areas,” he said.