Nigeria: Nembe Oil Spill - Ijaw Diaspora Council Vows to Sue Govt, Oil Companies Over Alleged Negligence

5 December 2021

A socio-cultural group based in the United States of America, USA, Ijaw Diaspora Council, IDA, weekend, vowed to sue the Federal Government and oil companies over alleged negligence of Nembe oil spill in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

This was contained in a statement signed by President, IDA, Prof Mondy Selle Gold, and Director of Community Outreach, IDA, Dr Festus Odubo, where the Council gave reasons why it took the decision to file a law suit against the Federal Government and oil companies operating in the area, which include willful failure to comply with relevant local and international laws; failure to carry out in safe manner inspection and maintenance of oil infrastructure in the area; catastrophic destruction of lives and marine environment of Ijaw communities; and others.

The statement reads in part, "Today the Ijaw Diaspora Council (IDC), relying on the information of its members of the Ijaw communities impacted by the ongoing catastrophic oil spill in Nembe Local Government Area (LGA), Bayelsa State, in the Niger Delta and all the Ijaw communities that have been impacted by the catastrophic oil and gas spills as well as pipeline explosions with their attendant cataclysmic ecological consequences, resolved to file a lawsuit in Hamburg, Germany at the Registry of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, against the Nigerian federal government and the irresponsible Joint venture Oil Companies.

"IDC will be seeking various remedies aimed to put an end to the reckless and criminal destruction of the Ijaw marine environment contrary to the responsibility of Nigeria under the UN Convention of the law of the sea.

"The IDC suit will allege that the Nigerian Government and its Joint venture oil companies were grossly negligent and or reckless as to the risk and dangerous consequences it placed on the Ijaw people and their marine environment, that their conduct amounts to knowingly and willfully failing to comply with relevant local and international laws, including but not limited to unwillingness to act in compliance with its responsibilities under the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the African Charter.

"These local and international laws requires best global practice in carrying out oil related activities in the marine environment, that Nigeria and its irresponsible oil venture companies knows or ought to have known that, however failed to carry out in safe manner inspection and maintenance of their oil infrastructure left in an unsafe condition, and failed to respond promptly to the catastrophic release of hydrocarbons from the Aiteo well in the Santa Barbara South oil field, OML29 as well as hundreds of similar cases over the past two decades all over the Ijaw territories in the Niger-Delta region.

"Some of the acts or omissions of the Defendants' gross negligence as encapsulated by the IDC suit to be filed include the following: The Defendants had a legal duty of care to inspect, monitor, and maintain their oil infrastructure, including OML 29, with the safest, best available technology, in accordance with global standards, consistent with Nigerian law requirements that such infrastructure be maintained to American Petroleum Institute (API) and American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) standards. The parties clearly failed this responsibility.

"The Defendants had a legal duty to effectively monitor the conditions of their oil wells, to ensure that they were not subject to either equipment failure in any manner. The Defendants clearly failed to do so.

"The Defendants had a legal duty to immediately detect any failures of their oil wells, in particular such a catastrophic failure as the OML 29 blowout, to report any anomalies immediately, and to take prompt corrective action to stop the source of any pollutant outflow. The Defendants clearly failed to so act, and failed to immediately deploy well kill personnel and equipment to the sites of the blowouts until irreversible damage was done to the marine environment.

"The Defendants had a legal duty to immediately commission an independent, credible, comprehensive environmental impact assessment to determine the environmental injuries caused by this spill in every instance of an oil and gas spill, and most importantly, in the case of the ongoing Tier III oil and gas blowout in Nembe, which is of the highest magnitude of marine pollution by international standards. The Defendants clearly failed in this responsibility."

Meanwhile, the Council also expressed displeasure and lamented that the entire ecosystem is currently enmeshed with total release volume of toxic hydrocarbons exceeding 260,000 barrels.

"The Aiteo blowout has continued since Nov 1, thus now for over 30 days. IDC's technical advisor from the U.S. estimates that the total release volume now exceeds 210,000 - 260,000 barrels of toxic hydrocarbon fluids into the sensitive mangrove ecosystem of Nembe LGA.

"The totality of such environmental pollution potentially runs into the tens of millions of barrels of similar pollutants spilled into the Ijaw marine environment over the past decade or two", it added.

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