Uzere 2023 Oil Spill, where is NOSDRA Report?

by Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku
oil spill

Concerning the subject matter above, we will start by stating the facts first of all and avoid any speculations. In June 15, 2023, an oil spill took place in Uzere Isoko Delta State. After the spill, the oil company which took over after Shell, Heritage Energy Operational Services Ltd (HEOSL) operators of OML 30 told me that it had conducted a joint investigative visit on the affected sites.  The HESOL statement said that they had conducted ‘clean up and recovery immediately and a substantial volume from the spill was recovered. Following a follow-up visit to the spill site on 19th March, 2024, there was no visible or free phase hydrocarbon sited during the visit that will pose further threat to the environment or cause further spread of hydrocarbon to other communities’.

The HESOL people insist that ‘third parties’ were responsible for the spill, and when we pressed them a little further to provide evidence of that allegation, they began to pussyfoot and squirm.  Representatives of the community insist that HESOL did not swing into action immediately after the spill occurred, and that as result of that act of negligence, the spill spread further and farther and inevitably destroyed forever the marine and aquatic life in other areas initially unaffected by the spill. Five months after the spill, and where there was no action taken by HESOL, Uzere people wrote two petitions. Both petitions were dated 31st October 2023 and one of them was titled Petition/Protest On The Willful Negligence And Failure To Remedy The Severe Impact Caused To The Aquatic Lives, Economic Trees And Environment By The Recent Oil Spillage In Etokpa Bush Along Uzere/Aviara Road Uzere Kingdom: Urgent Need For Environment Remediation Of The Impact: SOS.

Heritage Oil, aka HESOL, ignored both petitions, and when I asked them why they ignored those petitions, mum was the word from Heritage Oil. Part of the complaint of the people of Uzere is that because the HESOL were slow to carry out any form of remediation, HESOL became culpable.  Therefore, apart from requesting remediation from HESOL, Uzere people want compensation for damage done to sites destroyed over the HESOL ‘negligence’ to contain the spill, over one year after the oil spill. A HESOL spokesperson has told me clearly that Uzere will not be compensated because of the allegation being peddled around that Uzere people somehow were responsible for that oil spill. In the words of the HESOL representative, ‘as contained in the NOSDRA Act, Section 26 (2), third party infraction (sabotage) does not qualify for any financial benefit to the affected communities’.

From the get go, we were mostly only interested in getting at the facts of the matter as it concerns the 2023 oil spill in Uzere. Most of what was out there concerning the spill was hearsay, and was ultimately speculative. As a matter of fact, after we had written about the Uzere Oil Spill, we got a quick reaction from HESOL. They were to accuse me of being unfair to them in my publication. The way the Heritage man put it, it appeared as though we were in some kind of employer-employee relationship and for which they would dictate to me how I would conduct my editorial duties and responsibilities. But basically to assuage his fears of my alleged unfairness to Heritage oil in the way that I had presented the facts of the matter earlier, I arranged for Heritage Oil, OML 30 to have their own say, cost free, with a few questions. In spite of this though, they did not respond to my questions, have been reticent, and are seemingly interested in a hide and seek game. At a time, there was even very strong pressure from very interested groups to back off HESOL since they were already doing ‘something’. But because HESOL appeared really nervous about getting us a comprehensive and published report of their response after the spill, and because they had re-directed our inquiry about a report and a compensation for Uzere people over the year-long oil spill to the NOSDRA Act, we decided to take a look at the Act intoto.  

And so we have dived into the NOSDRA Act. Sections 6 (a-e), and 7 (a-g) of the National Oil Spill Detection and Remediation Agency, NOSDRA, indicates as a matter of fact that that agency, inter alia has responsibility to determine the following: (i) if the HESOL actually took action to stem the spill or not (ii) if the spill was a result of sabotage (as claimed by HESOL) and (iii) that NOSDRA as a matter of fact should produce a report, to put the records straight, allay fears and anxieties of Uzere people and ensure best practices in the oil and gas sector as it affects host oil communities in Nigeria.

Based on this, we filed a Freedom of Information, FOI, request dated 26th April, 2024, asking for a report on the ‘mapping and coordinates carried out on the oil spill that took place in Uzere Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta State’, which had taken place on the 15th of June 2023. Our request carried the mandatory timeline of seven (7) days within which we should get a response from NOSDRA. That timeline expired today, 2nd May 2024, without much of a whimper or even a request for an extension of time from the NOSDRA, to put their act (in a manner of speaking) together. Instead of this, NOSDRA has rushed to Uzere, and are now putting on an act of conducting a mapping of the coordinates of a massive oil spill which took place 12 months ago.   

Uzere has been contributing to the Nigerian economy since 1957. We do not deserve to be treated this way. One reason its environment is polluted and is as barren as it is today, is this behaviour of oil companies like HESOL, aka Heritage Oil, together with the seeming connivance of regulatory bodies like NOSDRA. In our next discussion, we will likely be telling you what other countries do under similar circumstances. But this Nigerian treatment of the people of Uzere is shameful and utterly despicable.

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