From Joseph Obukata, Warri
A Warri-based non-governmental organisation, Oil Spill Victims Initiative (OSPIVV), is set to sue the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) and Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in response to the discovery of a 4 km-long pipeline being used to siphon crude oil to rogue vessels on a platform on the high seas.
Speaking to reporters at a news conference on Friday in Warri, Prince Harrison Jalla, the executive director of OSPIVV, said that the organisation had already given instructions to its lawyers to bring a lawsuit against Shell and NNPCL for the heist that has repeatedly crippled the nation’s economy.
He asserted that the court action was designed to show how SPDC, NNPCL, and other International Oil Companies (IOCs) are responsible for the extensive oil theft that has been occurring in the Niger Delta for years.
Prince Jalla stated that the purpose of the lawsuit was to recoup all funds related to the illegal four-kilometer secret crude oil pipeline that had been used illegally for nine years to steal crude oil from Nigeria.
“There are numerous reports of crude oil theft in the Niger Delta, but we are particularly interested in the theft of crude oil from the Forcados terminal.
“Nobody can pinpoint when or where it began, but for the past nine years, they have been stealing our oil heritage. We want to start by holding NNPC and SPDC accountable for the oil theft and the atrocities committed against the Niger Delta people.
“We will take on the NNPCL and SPDC. We have already briefed our external solicitors to file action. So many IOCs will be called on account for this heist, but we want to start with the Shell Group because there is no way crude oil could be piped from those terminals without the involvement of those running the terminal.
“We don’t know if other areas where pipelines traverse in the region are involved.”
“We can now see there is a massive approach to stealing crude in the Niger Delta region. So we are going to court. The two organisations should let the court know what they know about the massive oil heists since 2003.
“If we have a court where everyone will give account of what they know, that’s fair and good for us.”
“We want to take them to a proper court of competent jurisdiction to unravel what’s happening in the truck lines.
“Our interest is to unravel what has been happening in the oil sector, so whether they claim it or not at Forcados Terminal is not our business.”
“Our concern is that a crime of massive oil theft has been committed and the resources have been pocketed by those we don’t know yet. The international community and IOCs are involved”.
Speaking in the same vein, a consultant in environmental law, Hosanna Jalogho-Williams, said that apart from oil theft, the issue of environmental degradation and the ecological effect of the oil heist on the inhabitants of the area, is one reason they have decided to go to court.
He said that the court will determine the value of the oil stolen over the years and the ecological effect of the theft itself, saying that the theft of the oil in the years under review and any spill it might have caused are the issues that would be brought before the court to determine.
“The Niger Delta used to have blue water in the 1980s, but recently the water’s colour has changed and there is a significant presence of water hyacinth, which is a sign of water pollution.
“The water hyacinth plant has no roots but feeds on the tainted elements, so its widespread presence indicates that the waters in which we live are polluted.”