Despite warnings on the health hazards of consuming a massive whale washed ashore Bonny coastline in Rivers State, residents of communities in the area at the weekend feasted on the dead aquatic animal.
The residents ignored fears of massive suspected massive pollution of the Atlantic Ocean, which recently led to death of thousands of croaker fish in the Niger Delta region.
An environmentalist, Mr. Furoebi Akene, added a twist to the development following his claims that toxic chemicals from Shell operations at Forcados oil export terminal were the cause of death of thousands of croaker fish washed ashore the coastlines.
But the whale, which was already decomposing, was butchered and shared by adamant residents, who reportedly believed it was a blessing from God to cushion the hardship caused by the COVID-19 lockdown in the state.
A resident of the area, Peter Awajis, was reported to have said: “This is a natural occurrence that happens every year.
“Ask any native of Finima, Bonny Local Government Area, Nembe, Brass, Bayelsa state and especially people in Oyorokoto, Andoni fishing ports of Rivers, they will tell you same thing.
“It is not new and can’t be linked to recent dead croakers in our waters. This wild whale is original manna from God to cater for the poor, especially in the season of Coronavirus.
“Last year same incident occurred in Nembe, Bayelsa state, and in less than three days before the Bayelsa Ministry of Health could mobilise to the scene, what was left was a mere carcass of the animal.”
Akene reacted to the position of the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) that it found no oil leaks linked to the massive death of fishes along the Atlantic coastline across region.
The agency said it was coordinating a multi-agency investigation to uncover the cause of the reported massive death of fishes within the nation’s territorial waters and was looking beyond the oil industry.
Director-General of NOSDRA, Mr. Idris Musa, said in a statement that investigation was already ongoing despite the COVID-19 lockdown.
While aligning with NOSDRA that the dead fishes were not caused by oil leakage, Akene said such disclosure by the regulator could mislead the outcome of the ongoing investigations.
Akene, Chairman, Board of trustees of the Centre for Environmental Preservation and Development (CEPAD), claimed that Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) discharged toxic materials in the Atlantic off Delta coastline at Ogulagha.
He said: “It has also become a common knowledge that, the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited SPDC discharged sludge mixed with chemicals into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
“The discharge the chemicals through one of their waste disposal pipes from the Forcados Terminal around Ogulagha. It was not oil spill from any of the trunkline pipes conveying crude oil from the Forcados terminal.
“The conspiracy between SPDC and NOSDRA has become very strong since the DG of NOSDRA is making all efforts to downplay the act and divert attention.
“It is heartbreaking and surprising that the Federal Government Regulation Agency , the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) is just waking up with a press release.
“The NOSDRA Director-General himself Mr. Idris Olubola Musa acted belatedly almost three months since the incident happened around the end of January 2020, haven earlier given the excuse that the COVID-!9 was a hindering him.
“Not only the belated nature of the response but the premature position while the results are awaited is intended to shield or conceal the real cause of the matter, the facility that caused it and the owners of the facility.
“This is quite unfortunate of a regulation agency. We are using this medium in appealing to NOSDRA to for once do the right thing as they are statutorily mandated to do.
“In the same vein we are urging the Governments of the affected states of Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Ondo and their respective National Assembly members and State Assembly members to rise up to their responsibilities to pursue this matter to its logical conclusion for the lives of their citizens.”
But Musa dismissed the claims and restated the agency’s commitment to a strigent regulation of the maritime domain within Nigerian territorial waters.
Musa insisted that NOSDRA was coordinating a multi-agency investigation aimed at revealing the cause of the massive death of fishes within the nation’s territorial waters and was looking beyond the oil spill.
He said: “The event of the death of fishes in large numbers make it expedient to look beyond oil spillage as the likely cause death of fishes in such large numbers as we found no trace of leakage to link with the dead fishes.
“The Agency proceeded to collect samples of water, sediments and some of the dead fish for laboratory testing. In doing so the agency brought onboard other relevant agencies of government that have mandate on our territorial waters.
“Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR), Federal Institute of Fisheries Research.
“Also included is the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) for an all hands on deck assessment of the possible cause or causes of death of the fishes in such large numbers.”
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