For failing to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with an oil company, the people of Owaza; a community in Ukwa West Local Government Area of Abia state may not get compensation for the spill which ravaged the community in 2008.
According to the general manager of Abia Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA), Dr. Cosmos Ndukwe, during a chat with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Aba, Abia, “The negotiations for compensation for last year’s oil spill in Owaza was stalled by the failure of the affected communities to sign an MoU with Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC),” Ndukwe said.
Some Owaza communities are demanding compensation from SPDC for the environmental pollution caused by an oil spill. The ASEPA boss said that rather than sign the MoU, the traditional rulers started presenting separate agitations for their individual communities, demanding compensations running into billions of naira from the company.
“SPDC has requested for the document as a condition before it could enter into negotiations with ASEPA for the compensation.”
He accused traditional rulers of the affected communities of selfishness, saying that they “refused to sign the document due to selfish reasons and petty bickering among them."
He explained that the absence of a common front by the traditional rulers created the impression that they were not united. He said that Shell cashed in on the opportunity to undermine the collective interest of the communities.
Ndukwe denied the allegation that the agency collected compensation from Shell on behalf of the communities, adding that “the agency has not received one kobo from Shell as compensation. Can Shell pay compensation in secret? In whose name was the cheque written?" he asked, while admonishing the traditional rulers for being responsible for their fate.
The traditional ruler of Igiriukwu autonomous community, Eze Jonathan Ezere had told journalists that they had been shortchanged by the agency. “When we went to Shell to find out the outcome of the negotiation for the compensation, they told us to go to our government.
“And we were later made to understand that the agency had collected the money," Ezere said. To buttress his allegation, he said that the agency boss was no longer consulting him, adding that he had stopped picking his phone calls and “now treats me with disdain as if he does not know me.”