Italian multinational oil and gas company, ENI, has absolved itself of wrongdoing in a 2010 oil spill in Ikebiri community in Bayelsa State which the inhabitants claimed destroyed their livelihoods.
The community had dragged the Nigerian Agip Oil Company, ENI’s Nigerian subsidiary, to an Italian court demanding a clean up of their environment as well as a €2 million compensation.
But responding to a PREMIUM TIMES enquiry on Wednesday, ENI said NAOC had always operated responsibly in Nigerian territory.
“In relation to the oil spill that would have affected the Ikebiri community in 2010, NAOC opened up a constructive dialogue with the community and moved quickly to reclaim the affected sites and initiate remediation works,” the company said in a statement.
The NAOC operates in the Niger Delta under a joint venture agreement with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (60%), NAOC (20%), and Oando (20%).
On April 5, 2010, an oil pipeline operated by NAOC burst about 250 metres from a creek north of Ikebiri community, causing irreparable damage to sources of livelihoods – destroyed aquatic life, dug-out fishing ponds, farmlands, according to the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria.
“It took six days for NAOC to agree to a joint inspection visit where it was concluded that ‘equipment failure’ caused the spill,” Godwin Ojo, ERA/FoEN’s Executive Director, had said at a press conference in Lagos on Tuesday.
“NAOC operates seven wells and eight pipelines with several flow lines in the area of Ikebiri.
“You will be shocked to know that after that visit, the leak was closed but the surrounding polluted area of bush was set ablaze in a ‘state of the art technology’ often deployed by Agip and without the consent of the local community. No other clean up has taken place since.”
Mr. Ojo said immediately after the 2010 oil spill, the Ikebiri community engaged in discussions with NAOC and ENI for emergency relief materials and compensation.
“An initial payment of N2 million was made to the community for relief materials,” Mr. Ojo said.
“However, to date, the community has received no compensation for damages as a result of the spill. An initial offer of N4.5 million was rejected by the community as compensation as insufficient, and ENI have since discontinued discussions with the community regarding compensation.”
While it did not elaborate on the controversial compensation offered the Ikebiri community, ENI said its Nigerian arm “fully cooperated” with the Department of Petroleum Resources and the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency in the aftermath of the spill.
“Both bodies conducted a detailed inspection of the remediation carried out by NAOC at the affected sites and were satisfied that the completed work was fully compliant with Nigerian regulations,” the company stated.
“However, some members of the Ikebiri community had already initiated judicial proceedings at the Nigerian court and NAOC, as the holder of the activities, is providing all the necessary clarifications to settle the dispute.”