Obelle gas fire: SPDCN’s refusal for dialogue regrettable – By Tunde Uchegbuo

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The Dutch National Contact Point in the Netherlands has faulted the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria,(SPDCN) over the gas fire eruption that emanated from equipment failure of its facility in Obelle in Emeoha Local Government Area of Rivers state in February, 1998.

The position of the Dutch Contact Point was based on the SPDCN refusal to accept their offer to mediate in a complaint filed against it on January 29, 2018 by a sociopolitical group, the Obelle Concerned Citizens.

On June 4 2019, the Dutch National Contact Point sent the draft Initial Assessment to SPDC and Obelle Concerned Citizens, offering to help the parties to resolve the dispute. While the OCC accepted the gesture, the multinational rejected it, but rather replied that it has its internal community grievance reconciliation mechanism.

The company claimed further that the issues raised by the petitioners had been discussed within the framework of their Community Feedback Mechanism and reflects its response to the issues raised in the specific instance.

However, the DNCP said it condemned the action of SPDC because the way it handled the complaint was not in line with relevant requirements set out in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development guidelines, and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The DNCP noted that Shell has failed to demonstrate that their internal grievance mechanism functions in a manner that can be considered to be consistent with the OECD guidelines and the UNGPs. As a result, the DNCP urged SPDC to be more transparent regarding its Community Feedback Mechanism, and develop their grievance mechanism until it meets all the relevant requirements as outlined in the OECD and UNGPs standard.

They also tasked Royal Dutch Shell to use its leverage within the Joint Venture to further develop the SPDC grievance mechanism, and ensure its full compliance with the OECD Guidelines. The OECD is an international organization that works to build better policies that improve economic and social well-being of people around the world, and is based in Paris, France.

The Obelle Concerned Citizens is asking the SPDC to engage in meaningful consultations with the community, and other stakeholders in its areas of operations, reiterating that they took their complaint to Dutch National Contact Point in the Netherlands to facilitate dialogue and help resolve the ongoing adverse impacts of SPDC operations in Obelle land.

Environmental Activists Henry Eferegbo and Prince Edegbuo, in collaboration with the Foundation for the Conservation of the Earth (FOCONE) a Non-Governmental Organization, represented by Patrick Chiekwe on February 2018 petitioned SPDC over the 1998 gas-fire eruption.

The group emphasized that some harmful chemicals were used by SPDC to extinguish the fire, stressing that the action of the oil giant is negatively impacting on the health of the people and their means of livelihood.

They claimed that the gas fire, affected over 21 Hectares of arable land, and caused severe environmental hazards to Obelle , and accused SPDC of operating in violation of the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises, as it concerns oil exploration and exploitation in Nigeria.

The group prayed that the company should implement the Environmental Impact Assessment of the Geophysical and Technical Study of the 1998 Gas Fire, implement the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board Act of 2010, provide and manage a standard health centre in the Area, provide skill development trainings for the people, and employ qualified persons from the community.

The body regretted that since 1963 when the SPDC began oil exploration in the area, no indigene of the place has been employed into the mainstream of the company.

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