NEDU MARK, Yenagoa
Human rights advocacy group, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has asked the Nigerian Agip Oil Company to pay the sum of US$2 million as compensation to each family of the 14 victims who died as a result of an explosion that occurred at its facility in Azuzuama, Bayelsa State.
It would recalled that an explosion which occurred on July 9, 2015 on the company’s Clough/Creek Pipeline at Azuzuama area in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the State had claimed the lives of 14 persons in the state.
The Rights Action group also demanded the revocation of the operating license of Agip since there was a consistence in trends of explosions and deaths at its fields in the Niger Delta region.
Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Godwin Uyi Ojo, made the demand while formally presenting the environmental rights group’s official report on the incident titled, “Agip’s Azuzuama Tragedy” to journalists in Yenagoa, the state capital, Monday.
The group said the victims included a Nigerian soldier, one official each of the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment and National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Agip staff and community youth.
The deceased were members of a Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) team that were carrying out clamping on a previous oil spill on the facility when the incident occurred.
“While a price cannot be placed on the loss of human lives, we urge the payment of the sum of US$2 million each to the families of the bereaved since their bread winners have been taken away from them abruptly”, he said.
Ojo, who stated that this will serve as a deterrent to Agip and other oil companies on the need to put lives first before profit, decried what he termed ‘Agip’s impunity and flagrant disregard for environmental regulations.’
He revealed that the company had not officially and publicly responded to the tragic incident since it occurred.
The Right Action urged the Federal Government to set up a panel to investigate and identify the cause of the fire and explosion.
“Agip should be brought to book following the cases of negligence, equipment failure and substandard mode of clamping procedures.
“State and Federal governments should ensure that Agip complies with international standards in oil pipeline clamping and procedures which must guarantee the safety of workers, regulators and the communities.
“Government and oil companies particularly Agip must also ensure only competent firms are engaged as contractors to carry out clamping jobs that require high levels of professionalism”, Ojo added.
In his remarks, Commissioner for Environment Bayelsa state, Inuro Wills, lamented that it was only in the Niger Delta that Agip and other multinational oil companies would violate operational regulations and neglect victims of environmental degradation, oil spillages and pipeline explosions with impunity.