Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
The people of Twon Brass, Brass Local Government, Bayelsa State, are angry. They are picking grudges with the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), over its alleged non-compliance with extant laws and guidelines on oil and gas pollution and environmental assessment in the company’s operations at the Brass terminal.
Investigations revealed that the chiefs and leaders of the community have run out of patience and are making consultations on their line of action since legitimate efforts to make the oil company see reason have not yielded good results.
The chiefs’ main anger stemmed from the company’s alleged disregard and violation of the laws and guidelines of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in its operations as it affects Brass Terminal. Their grievance is also connected to what was identified as lack of succession plan for indigenes of Twon Brass who have retired from the company.
On the pollution, their main plank of argument was that the oil company has been lackadaisical about its actions and its effects on the people and the environment. In a letter written to the company and signed by majority of the chiefs, they listed their grievances and suggested recommendations to avoid bad blood between the two parties:
“Twon Brass has continuously suffered an onslaught of liquid, gaseous, solid and noise pollution from your company’s operation since 1973. It would be premature to pin point which of the three pollutants has impacted negatively on the flora and fauna in the community but the most obvious are oil gas pollution.
“The council is similar with the provisions in the Petroleum Act, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency Act (NOSDRA) as amended, guidelines and the Environmental and Standards for the Petroleum in Nigeria 2018 on oil Spills and pollution by Oil Companies, the Twon Brass Export Terminal has since the inception of your operations in 1973 borne brunt of the value chain of oil export namely, separation of crude your flow stations and facilities, dumping of waste water after separation into pits at the Brass Terminal, discharge of the untreated waste or sludge into Agip canal and emission or discharged of unused gas in liquid and gaseous forms in the Twon Brass Terminal.”
The council said the devastating effects/damages from the entire process of the separation of crude, discharges of effluents or sludge into the canal, the offensive odour in and around the canal, emission of gas in the air, coupled with the seepage of storm water from the pits have damaged the ecosystem of the area including surface water and aquatic life in the Brass.
They noted that the sludge in the Agip canal and the waste discharged into pits at the terminal have never been subjected to independent laboratory tests involving the community and other stakeholders in the oil and gas industry to ascertain the level of acceptable waste that is discharged into the canal.
On the environmental management plan, the chiefs wondered why Agip has not carried out environmental audit on their facilities and plants in areas of their operations periodically as expected: “Agip cannot claim ignorance that Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between parties is an all inclusive process where all arms and organs or their representatives in the affected communities are engaged.”
The council of chiefs accused Agip of engaging in divide and rule to have a MoU with the community without the knowledge and input from members of the council: “Agip’s conduct smacks of a sinister and well choreographed plot to divide the community and become the biggest beneficiary.
“A thorough environmental audit would have revealed that the high marine vessel traffic and dredging activities of Agip canal and Brass Sea is responsible for the erosion of Twon Brass shorelines. Agip canal has denied indigenes of all the economic and social benefits that abound in the area for close to five decades.”
The council demanded a remediation or thorough clean up of the Agip canal to make it completely free from pollution. While calling for compensation for the pollution and environmental degradation over the years, it demanded a protection of the community’s shoreline, which it argued has suffered serious erosion from the direct impact of Agip’s operations.
An official of Agip said some of the issues alleged by the chiefs are not true because the company has a good relationship with its host communities:
He said ”NAOC denies all the allegations brought forward in the letter. As in all communities where it operates across the Niger Delta, the company is in constructive contact with the community’s leadership. The company is working with the community its legitimate legal representatives and regulators to address issues of mutual concern to the parties including environmental issues.”