Violence was averted in Kolo riverine community in Bayelsa State as Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, has relocated its Kolo Creek/Soku gas pipeline across Kolo River from the river surface to the river bed.
As at October 2016, SPDC had passed the gas pipeline above the surface of the Kolo River, hampering navigation by fishing canoes, transport boats amongst others in the channel.
However, when journalists visited the Kolo Creek Oilfield operated by SPDC, it was observed that the gas pipeline was no longer on the water surface.
Oil workers were seen refilling dug-out sand from the creek.
Environmentalists and residents in the area had protested the laying of pipelines across the water surface, asking SPDC to bury it under the riverbed.
Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FoEN, in a statement at the time, asked SPDC to bury the pipeline in order to protect the economic interest of residents who used the creek as transport channel and fishing activities.
Alagoa Morris, the Head of Field Operations at ERA/FoEN’s office in Bayelsa described the action as a welcome development and applauded SPDC for taking steps to correct the anomaly.
He said: “It is a positive outcome of our advocacy efforts and we commend SPDC for taking steps to come back to bury the pipeline under the river bed, it shows that we are partners to ensure that the oil industry is run in a sustainable manner.
Morris added that his organization will “always demand justice and fair play and preach the principle of live and let live.”
“With the pipeline underneath the Kolo River, fishermen and community people who use the creek will operate while Shell carries on its business as well,” he said.
“We in the environmental rights movement are keen on complimenting and strengthening the efforts of the regulatory authourities, we are not trouble makers as some of the industry operators perceive us, we do not shout for nothing.
“When they do well we applaud and commend them, and this is a win-win situation for Shell and its host community, this action makes further protests which we planned unnecessary” Morris added.
Similarly, a resident of the area, Dressman Tetemaziba, noted that the reposition of the pipeline had resolved the contention between the oil firm and its host communities and hoped for harmonious relationship.
An Environmental Scientist and Development worker, Benita Siloko, noted that she was worried about the adverse impact of crossing the pipeline on water surface when she noticed the pipeline in December 2016 during the Christmas holidays.
She said: “I had observed the pipeline across the water surface and opted to take photographs because it looked abnormal for a channel where boats and canoes pass, I am pleasantly surprised that they have corrected the problem.
She maintained that “Oil firms must understand that the welfare and economic interest of oil bearing communities count while executing their projects.”
“As an environmentalist I feel happy at the development, and it shows that with the support provided by the civil society advocacy groups like ERA/FoEN our communities would be a better place to live in,” Siloko added.