Tuesday, 18 September 2012

U-Report: Group Accuses Shell Of Environmental Offences

Part Of The Oil Spill

Report By:  Comrade Nelson Nnanna Nwafor (08033383708)

An environmental rights group, the Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy and Development (FENRAD) has accused the oil giant, Shell Petroleum Development Corporation (SPDC) of playing double standard in its relationship with her host community, Umuorie in Ukwa West local government area of Abia State.

FENRAD alleged that SPDC went behind to destroy evidence of oil spillage which occurred at Usankanya River near Isimiri Flow Station owned by SPDC On August 25, 2011.

In a press statement signed by the Executive Director Comrade Nnanna Nwafor, Programme coordinator Henry Nwaigwe and Director of Administration, Chuka Okoye, the group which said it is acting on behalf of the community maintained that it has written several letters to call SPDC to order but to no avail.

In response to the plea of the community, FENRAD Said it took it upon itself to carry out an inspection visit of the affected site in order to ascertain the degree of damage done by the spill.

According to the statement, the inspection team comprised FENRAD staff and elders of the community which included Chiefs Samuel Akoma, John Nwaorgu (President General of the Community), Lazarus Nwarie (Umunkwocha Village Head).

At the inspection, the team discovered that the community’s only source of drinking water has been polluted as the spillage has spread to neighbouring communities of Umukalu, Umuituru, Umuebulengwu, Obohia and
Obunku. It also added that farm lands and crops and fishes have been destroyed while the environment has been oozing with crude oil thereby creating serious environmental hazards.

The group further stated that after the inspection visit, it wrote series of letters titled,” Urgent Attention to Call SPDC to order” to regulatory agencies like National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), but said SPDC allegedly went behind to destroy evidence of the oil spillage. It disclosed that SPDC visited the site on September 5, 2011 for inspection and put a flow tube to the surface of the water, with no further action taken till date.

FENRAD said it also issued a 14 days ultimatum to SPDC for prompt action but the latter refuse to heed to its calls.”It is pertinent to note that your continued delay in cleaning up the spillage site as well as paying
compensation to the adjourning third party is spelling environmental danger to the affected areas,” the ultimatum read in part.

The group also submitted video clips, scanned pictures of the spillage site and the acknowledgment copy of a reminder letter earlier submitted by the Umuorie community to SPDC. Copies were sent to the Minster for
Environment, Commissioner for Environment, Abia State, and Abia State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (ASOPADEC).

The group also accused SPDC of playing divide and rule tactics by trying to buy over some elders of the community instead of being a good corporate organization.

The group regretted that these efforts have not yielded fruit as the oil giant has continued to shun its responsibilities.”We, together with the host community are once again, inviting them for a joint investigation
visit with government agencies. This aim is to make them know the extent of damage being done to the farm lands and lives of the people. SPDC should clean up the spillage thoroughly and pay proper compensation. The idea of going behind to destroy evidence of the spillage will not be allowed to stand,” FENRAD noted.

The reports of the JOINT Assessment Reports showed that the oil spillage  that occur has heavily impacted the communities and other adjourning third parties. FENRAD have been given the Power of Attorney by the community, and expect SPDC to consult the organization before any remedy will be done, this will enable the organization Engage environmental valuation experts that will ensure that proper remedy is done in line with the best international practices.

FENRAD said it collected enough evidence of Shell and regulators' environmental offences and may be heading to court to seek redress over breach of environmental laws.

U-Report: Campaign For Democracy Calls On EFCC, ICPC, Gov. Obi To Arrest NASSI Chairman

Report By: Dede Uzor A. Uzor 
The Campaign for Democracy (CD), South-East Region has urged the Economic and Finance Crime Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to arrest Mr. Stanley Akabuogu, Chairman, Anambra Chapter of Nigerian Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI).

This was contained in a statement issued to newsmen by the group on Tuesday.

The statement was signed by Dede Uzor A. Uzor, Chairman of CD South-East Region.

The statement further said that Akabuogu had allegedly been extorting money from unsuspecting members of the public in the disguise of giving them loan from Federal Government.

``From 2004, Akabuogu and his cohort had been allegedly collecting N2,600 for the form for the said loan for over 900 people, who are residents and indigenes of Anambra and other South-East States.

``Apart from the form, other extortion within the alleged scam perpetrated by Akabuogu led group included N1000 and N600 for membership card and ID card respectively, for each form holder.

``Subscribers to the alleged scam, also paid Agricultural Bank, Awka N14,000 each; and local government fees N1,000.

``And transport to-and-fro for the incessant meetings for the alleged scam loan to be redeem for over eight years for most of the subscribers living within Nnewi, Ekwulobia, Onitsha and other parts of the state and beyond amounts to N12,000,’’ it said.

The statement said that it was disheartening for somebody or group to start working on the psychic of others due to the prevailing poverty and financial illiteracy in the country.

``The total N28, 980,000 had been allegedly collected from low income Nigerians such as rural farmers, artisans, petty traders, market women and civil servants to a promised that never existed anywhere,’’ it said.

It said that one of the victims, Mr Eddy Anudu, a trader at Bridge-Head Market, Onitsha lamented the criminal extortion allegedly perpetrated by NASSI.

The statement called on First Bank of Nigeria to terminate the Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) it had with NASSI, aimed at making single-digit credit facilities available to Small and Medium Scaled Industries and Enterprises in Nigeria recently.

``Gov. Peter Obi should immediate ban NASSI and other investment and credit ventures within the state not duly approved and monitored by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

``Other governors in the South-East should follow suit and stop these scams that extort money from people especially the poor and down trodden,’’ it said.

News Report: Nigeria Islamists Kill Top Borno State Lawyer

Credit: Reuters

Suspected members of the Boko Haram Islamist sect killed the attorney general of Nigeria's northeast state Borno overnight, the state's justice ministry said on Tuesday, a day after the sect's spokesman was reportedly killed in a shootout.

Boko Haram, which models itself on the Afghan Taliban, is fighting to create an Islamic state in largely Muslim northern Nigeria, a battle in which the sect has killed hundreds of people in gun and bomb attacks. Its headquarters is in Borno.

Zanna Malam Gana was shot dead in his home town of Bama, in Nigeria's remote northeast, on the threshold of the Sahara Desert, the justice ministry said in a statement to local journalists. It said his burial would take place on Tuesday.

On Monday, a Nigerian security source said its forces had killed Abu Qaqa, the main spokesman of the Boko Haram sect, which has become the biggest threat to Nigeria's security, as well as another senior militant.

There has been no response from the sect on the claim. Nigerian forces have claimed to have killed or captured him before, only for the militant to issue a statement denying it.

Boko Haram traditionally targets authority figures or security sources, although it started attacking mobile phone installations across the northeast two weeks ago, saying phone companies were helping authorities to track down its fighters.

They have already destroyed around 30 phone masts.

MTN Nigeria said in a statement on Tuesday that due to sabotage it had also "experienced multiple cuts to its fiber cable in the same region, which has impacted service in the eastern part of the country".

"Current security concerns have prevented not only repair work to damaged equipment, but routine maintenance, causing disruption to the lives of millions of Nigerians," MTN Nigeria's general manager of corporate affairs, Funmi Omogbenigun, said.

A military crackdown in the north appears to have damaged Boko Haram's capabilities, although it remains deadly in many parts. At least 186 people died in coordinated attacks in the north's main city of Kano in January.

Opinion: Noisy Worship

By Theresa Okoye

Africans are the noisiest people in the world.  That is a cliché. I do not know the author of that axiom but I am aware that Nigerians live with and tolerate a high level of noise.  Imagine the itinerant preacher screaming and ringing a bell at 4.00am: “Repent ye sinners for the kingdom is near at hand”. He is oblivious of the fact that everyone, (including sinners) is entitled to peace and quiet!  Churches and Mosques generate a lot of noise. A Street in my neighbourhood has three churches.  These churches have massive loud speakers and sometimes, preaching goes on simultaneously; they equally use very loud musical instruments and generating sets. Friday nights are worse: vigils are held from dusk to dawn, residents are subjected to excessive noise. Those who complained to the church authorities were labeled “enemies of progress” and “agents of the devil”.   These activities cause noise pollution.

Pollution refers to man-made or man-aided alteration of chemical, physical or biological quality of the environment beyond acceptable limits.  Noise is an unwanted sound.  It does not matter where it comes from either religious place of worship, or markets.  We are entitled to freedom of religion.  This is enshrined in Section 38 of the 1999 Constitution “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of religion….. to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in his worship, teaching, practice and observance”.

However, while we exercise our constitutional rights, we should ensure we do not cause noise pollution.

Some religious places of worship are situate in residential areas.  It is important that worshipers take cognizance of the fact that noise generated during the cause of worship, has many adverse effects.  These include: injury to the ears, permanent loss of hearing, anxiety and stress which may lead to fright, it also causes disturbance in nervous system of unborn babies and leads to emotional disturbance along with abnormal behaviour. It can also increase cholesterol level in blood.

We can combat noise pollution, by ensuring that our religious places of worship are sound-proof.

It is unlawful to cause noise pollution, this is because apart from its adverse effects, it violates our constitutional right to the environment; as enshrined in Section 20 of the 1999 Constitution which provides that it is the duty of the State to protect and safeguard the environment from pollution.

Some pro-active states like Lagos State, has taken the lead in the fight against noise pollution.  Recently, officials of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) shut three churches and two mosques within the metropolis for violating the laws of the State against noise pollution.  Residents had complained about the blazing noise pollution from the churches and mosques.

The affected places would not be opened till they comply with the relevant laws.

The Indian Constitution also recognizes its citizens’ right to environment.  In the case of Church of God (Full Gospel) India V KKR Majestic Colony Welfare Association (2000).  The Supreme Court of India held that excessive noise emanating from the Church loudspeakers violated the right to environment recognized under the India Constitution.

Everyone has a right to the environment. Let us not engage in noisy worship!

(Okoye is a Legal Practitioner. She works with Fides Law Practice, Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. She can be reached through: theresa@fideslawpractice.com)

Opinion: Environmental Impact Of Gas Flaring

Gas Flaring In Nigeria
By Theresa Okoye

The first time Chi-Chi, my younger sister visited Omoku, Rivers State; she saw what seemed like a huge ball of fire burning a building not too far from where she stood. She immediately alerted her colleague that a building was on fire.  Peter could not hold back his laughter as he explained that the burning building was gas being flared.

As a visitor, she was shocked to watch the endless burning of this gas 24 hours a day.

In order to address the problems of gas flaring, it is necessary to understand why natural gas is being flared.  Oil and natural gas are mixed in every oil deposit; the natural gas called “associated gas” must be removed from oil before refining.

Gas flaring is simply the burning of this associated gas. This practice is as old as oil production in Nigeria.

Continuous flaring of gas in the Niger Delta over the last forty years has contributed to the release of “green house gases” into the atmosphere.

Gas flaring is illegal in most countries of the world, where gas flaring may only occur in certain circumstances such as emergency shut downs, none planned maintenance or disruption to the processing system. 

Approximately one billion standard cubic feet of gas is flared daily. Nigeria has the world’s highest level of gas flaring.  This problem is as a result of the operations of oil companies in Nigeria; particularly the Niger Delta regions.

The challenges faced by people who reside in areas within which gas flare stacks are located can only be imagined.  

Gas flaring has destroyed plant and wildlife, it causes respiratory diseases and some have become half deaf from the incessant din of the gas flare.

Gas flaring has been the most constant environmental damage in the Niger Delta region. Gas flaring pollutes the surface water and as it burns, it changes to other gases which are not very safe.

It also results in acid rain.  It destroys steel roofing sheets of the resident indigenous people.

It is disheartening to note that despite the existence of the Associated Gas Re-injection Act, (which compels every company producing oil and gas in Nigeria, to submit preliminary programmes for gas re-injection and detailed plans for implementation of gas re-injection) gas flaring continues unabated.  The Federal Government, sometime in 1984 assured hapless, gullible Nigerians that gas flaring would cease before the end of that year. The Petroleum Industry Bill prohibits the flaring of gas in Section 277. It also provides in Section 277(2) that the Minister has powers to permit gas flaring as long as possible. I am of the view that the Government is yet to take a decisive stand on the prohibition of gas flaring. It is important the legislature sets out a specific date when gas flaring would end before the Bill is finally passed into law.

There are various reasons for the continuous gas flaring.  From a political perspective, oil has become the basis of important forms of political mobilization. The Nigerian government has not enforced environmental regulations effectively because of the conflicting jurisdiction of separate governmental agencies governing petroleum and the environment as well as non-transparent governance mechanisms.

From an economic perspective, the government’s major interest in the oil industry is to maximize its monetary profits from oil production. Oil companies believe that it is economically expedient to flare the natural gas and pay the insignificant fine than to re-inject the gas back into the oil wells.  Furthermore, because there is an insufficient energy market especially in rural areas, oil companies do not see an economic incentive to collect the gas.

The oil-producing communities are the hardest hit!  This is because despite the discovery of oil in these areas; the indigenous people experience severe marginalization and neglect.  I am sure John Salo can give more details.  The environment and human health has frequently been a secondary consideration for oil companies and the Nigerian government.  This should not be so! 

(Okoye is a Legal Practitioner. She works with Fides Law Practice, Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. She can be reached through: theresa@fideslawpractice.com)