RE: Urgent demands from the Ijaw People in response to the major Aiteo oil spill in Nembe LGA, Bayelsa State

IDC P. O. Box 25325, Newark, New Jersey, 07101 www.ijawdiaspora.org
URGENT

November 15, 2021

Mr. Benedict Peters, CEO
Aiteo Oil Exploration and Production Company
5/7 Dockyard Road
Apapa, Lagos, Nigeria
+234-14614448

RE: Urgent demands from the Ijaw People in response to the major Aiteo oil spill in Nembe LGA, Bayelsa State

Dear Mr. Peters,

We refer to the major wellhead blowout from an Aiteo oil well near Bassambiri (Opu-Nembe) in Nembe Local Government Area (LGA), Bayelsa State, which appeared to have begun on Tuesday, November 2, 2021, and the blowout continues to this day. From the evidence available not limited to videos collected by local community members, it is estimated by international oil spill experts that the blowout has already spilled well over 100,000 barrels of toxic hydrocarbon fluids (methane and crude oil) into the productive coastal mangrove ecosystem.

We note that this is indeed a major spill by any standards, and its effects are clearly catastrophic ecologically, economically, and socially in the coastal communities affected.

It is pertinent to state that your company knows or ought to have known that existing laws and international laws and practice, including but not limited to local laws, requires oil companies to employ Best Available Technology to prevent such catastrophic failures of oil infrastructure and to respond immediately to stop the outflow of pollutants.

We believe that you are aware or ought to have been aware of Global Best Practices with its inherent legal implications to immediately deploy spill containment and resources sufficient to clean up spilled oil, conduct an environmental damage assessment of all environmental injuries caused by a spill, and compensate affected parties.

We note Aiteo’s laudable Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies, including the expression:
“…to encourage a positive impact, through our activities, on the environment, consumers, employees, communities and stakeholders… to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life for our workforce and their families, as well as, of the local community and society as a whole…We are responsible stewards of the Earth.”

Thus, the Ijaw Diaspora Council (IDC), acting on information of its members, in particular, those from Nembe LGA extraction directly affected by the Aiteo spill, write with specific urgent demands of your company, consistent with Nigerian and International laws and your CSR commitments, as follow:

  1. Aiteo must promptly plug the blowout, as required by Nigerian law, and retain the failed Christmas Tree structure atop the wellhead for future independent analysis to ascertain the source of the failure.
  2. Aiteo must immediately deploy sufficient oil spill containment and cleanup equipment and personnel to contain and collect as much of the spilled hydrocarbon pollutant as possible, as required by Nigeria law, and hire as many local community members as possible. This is clearly a Tier III oil spill (the largest category), and Aiteo should contract with local and international experts such as Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL) in Southampton UK or other experts to conduct a large-scale Tier III spill response.
  3. Aiteo must provide immediate, interim response funding directed by Aiteo to the affected Ijaw people of at least $500,000 USD, to be used by the affected people to support their initial sustenance in response to the spill. This initial funding will in no way prejudice future claims for compensation for the spill and will allow local Ijaw people to purchase alternative food resources during the spill, as contaminated fish from the spill area cannot be consumed; purchase Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); conduct overall response to this emergency; etc. This Response fund is not to be directed to IDC but to the affected communities.
  4. Aiteo must agree to support and cooperate with a technical advisor for the Ijaw communities joining the official Joint Investigation Team (JIT).
  5. Aiteo must immediately commission an independent, scientific, environmental damage assessment by a credible, independent scientific institution.
  6. Aiteo must preserve all evidence, including documents, video and photographs, and actual equipment (in particular, the failed Christmas Tree structure) that may be relevant to determining the cause of the wellhead failure and spill.
  7. Aiteo must provide the community with all records pertaining to this well, including its design and installation, any/all inspection and maintenance the company has performed on the well, any deficiencies the company has noted, all corrective/remedial actions the company has taken on the well prior to this catastrophic spill etc.

We believe that until something drastic is done by Aiteo to address and ameliorate immediately the sufferings of the people, it is with regret that Aiteo has added itself amongst oil companies operating in the Niger Delta that have claimed to be good corporate citizens but looked the other way when the company causes an environmental disaster. This is a chance for your company to honor its laudable CSR commitments and obligations under Nigerian law and international law and respond to our people’s urgent needs, as requested above.

Note IDC does not seek that you pay anything to it arising from this duty to inform you to act. Any matter relating to payment must be directed to the communities, not IDC. Please confirm receipt of this letter, and we look forward to your immediate response as to actions immediately taken by your company till date.

Regards,
Professor Mondy Gold,
President, Ijaw Diaspora Council,
ijawdiasporacouncil@gmail.com or info@ijawdiaspora.org

Dr. Festus Odubo.
Director of Community Outreach, Ijaw Diaspora Council
ijawdiasporacouncil@gmail.com or info@ijawdiaspora.org

Dr. Brisibe Nabena.
Director of Conflict Resolution, Ijaw Diaspora Council
ijawdiasporacouncil@gmail.com or info@ijawdiaspora.org

cc:

  1. His Excellency Senator Douye Diri Executive Governor, Bayelsa State
  2. His Excellency Dr. (Chief) Timipre Sylva, Nigerian Petroleum Minister of State, Abuja
  3. Chief Sharon Ikeazor, Minister of Environment, Abuja
  4. Professor Rick Steiner, Environmental Sustainability Consultant, Oasis Earth, Anchorage, Alaska, United States of America
  5. HRM (King) Biobelemoye Josiah, Ogbodo De VIII, Amayanabo of Opu-Nembe Kingdom in Bayelsa State
  6. Senator Degi-Eremienyo, senator representing Bayelsa East senatorial district of Bayelsa State
  7. Abubakar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation [AGF] and Nigeria Minister of Justice
  8. Idris Musa, Director General/Chief Executive, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency CBD, Abuja