By Emmanuel Nduka
The leakage at OML 29 at the Santa Barbra Well 1 in Nembe, Bayelsa State, has spilled over 4000 barrels of oil as at Monday, November 22.
On November 5, Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company (AEEPCO), Operator of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation/Aiteo Joint Venture (JV), reported a leak in one of its assets in Nembe (OML 29), but has so far failed to plug the leak.
The latest oil spill which is a series of reoccurrence in the Niger Delta, has a devastating effect, such that after over two weeks, hydrocarbons begin to spew into the environment causing serious environmental degradation and economic hardship to the residents of the area.
Environmental Activist, Morris Alagoa, told The Heritage Time on telephone on Monday that the spill is still charging out unattended to.
“It is continuing. 24 hours of the day since November 1. The thing is still spraying there, very loud and clear. Apart from this one that is spraying into the river, the mangrove swamp would have also been badly affected. This is a big short-changing on our people from the oil company,” he said.
On the impacts it has had on people in the community, he said “There are several fishing settlements that are affected. The people have been denied their means of income. When they go out and catch fish, they engage in trade by barter. You give fresh fish or dry fish and take whatever food item that you need.
“Their fishing gears have been damaged. You cannot use a fishing gear that has been affected by crude oil because the fishes are very sensitive to smell. They will run away from your net.
“The people don’t get the kind of compensation that they ought to get. And they have complained that even if compensation is to be made, it should be brought directly to the fishing settlement. Community leaders are benefiting from the cries and sufferings of the real victims.”
What The Bayelsa Govt Said
Meanwhile, the Bayelsa State Government has expressed worry over Aiteo’s failure to plug the leaks at its oil field two weeks after it was reported.
Its reaction was is contained in a statement issued last Friday by the Commissioner for Information in the state, Ayibaina Duba.
Mr Duba said Governor Douye Diri was disappointed that the company “had not taken any concrete steps” to rectify the problem since the equipment failure was reported.
He said Diri “wondered why the massive spill has continued unabated, leading to extensive pollution of the rivers, waterways and farmlands in Nembe Local Government Area, even when the company’s management is aware of the situation”.
“The governor is gravely concerned that if the high volume of crude being spilled continuously is not stopped immediately, it will spread to many more communities.
“This will undermine the economic life of residents, who are predominantly farmers and fishermen.
“Diri warned Aiteo not to assume that this criminal neglect of its facilities and disregard for human life and the environment, as demonstrated by its conduct will not be accounted for,” he said.
While assuring that the state government would not stand by and watch the oil firm put human and aquatic lives and the environment in jeopardy, it urged the residents of Nembe to be law-abiding and remain peaceful, assuring them of the government’s commitment to their wellbeing.
What The Law Says
The agency saddled with the responsibility of handling spill related issues in Nigeria is the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA). It has since enunciated the process of reporting such events when they occur.
According to NOSDRA, all oil spills must be closed-off/stopped by the oil company within 24 hours of being notified of an oil spill in their jurisdiction, after which a Joint Investigative Visit (JIV) must be carried out as soon as possible, after a spill has been identified and containment measures taken.
The JIV is where the oil company representatives, community representatives, and appropriate government agencies visit the oil spill site to agree on the cause, impact and scale of the spill. The resulting JIV document is then signed by all parties present and this forms the basis of any legal proceedings or compensation claims.
In addition, within two weeks of a spill being identified, oil companies must submit information (form B) to the government regulator which outlines areas of impact, area covered by spill, quantities spilled, quantities recovered, cause of spill, containment and clean-up measures.
Efforts Made By NOSDRA So Far
The officials of NOSDRA deployed to ascertain the cause of the leak had reported that the magnitude of the leak was hampering investigations.
Director-General of NOSDRA, Idris Musa, told journalists that the agency had directed the operators of the facility to plug the leak for investigations to begin, adding that other oil firms in the country, under the auspices of Clean Nigeria Associates, had been drafted to join Aiteo in the recovery of spilled crude.