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Panic as gas leakage threatens Bayelsa community

By Samuel Oyadongha & Laide Akinboade
YENAGOA—PANIC, yesterday, gripped the Kalaba community in Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, following the leakage of a substance suspected to be gas from a ruptured pipeline owned by Nigerian Agip Oil Company.

Vanguard learnt that Kalaba, one of the six communities in Okordia clan, had suffered serial oil spillages occasioned by alleged equipment failure as well as sabotage in the past.

It was also learnt that not only were the natives living with the discomfort of the sound of the leaking gas, but also faced possible fire outbreak.

Eyewitnesses said the latest leakage was noticed on one of the pipelines recently laid in the community by the oil companyon 18 May.

Paramount ruler of the community, Chief Idoniboye Nwalia, said the leaking gas pipeline was laid about three months ago, parallel to the others laid over the years.

He told Vanguard: “We were surprised when we heard the sound from the pipeline on 18 May, 2010. Though the sound was familiar, having experienced similar incidents in our environment in the past, we investigated and discovered that the sound was emanating from the pipeline that was laid recently by Agip.

“Apart from the noise from the leakage that is disturbing us, we know that it is very dangerous to have such a thing close to our community; anything can happen from that leakage.”

Nwalia said the incident had been reported to the oil company and the council chairman, stressing that this might have informed the visit of the firm to the troubled spot on two occasions.

He added: “After our report, Agip has visited the site twice. The police and State Security Service, SSS, have also visited the site. In this wise, I guess the community has done the right thing; for Agip to react immediately and stop the gas from continuous leakage in to the environment and posing grave danger to us.

We don’t know the cause of this gas leakage yet, we shall know after a joint investigation visit and report. But it is important that Agip stops this gas leakage before it causes harm to lives and property here. My people are very apprehensive.”

Also speaking, the Project Officer and head of Yenagoa office of Environment Rights Action, ERA, Mr. Alagoa Morris, who visited the scene of the leakage called on Agip to immediatley mobilize to the site and put off the gas leakage.

Exxon Mobil, NOSRA disagree

Meantime, Exxon Mobil Nigeria and the National Oil Detection and Response Agency, NOSRA, yesterday, disagreed on the level of cleaning of the recent oil spill in Akwa Ibom State.

NOSRA accused the oil giant of not completing the cleaning of Usari Idoho, Ibeno Shoreline and Eastern Obolo areas of the state.

The Minister of Environment, Mr. John Odey, who also chaired the meeting said: “We will be able to close the gap of communications, as far as monitoring of oil spills in Nigeria is concerned. In areas where all the oil companies operate, we hope this meeting will offer Exxon Mobil opportunities to close the communication gap between it and  government agencies.

Odey noted that the spill was in a tune of 300 barrels adding that the main objective of the meeting was to scale up the gap.

Director of Oil Spill in the Ministry, Mr. Idirs Musa, who spoke on behalf of NOSRA said, there was oil spill on 1 May, 2010, in the area; adding that there had been series of complaints on incessant oil spills by Exxon Mobil in the area.

Musa said: “We want to put in perspective the way Exxon Mobil responded to the oil spill issue within the environment, Akwa Ibom State and the Niger Delta area. We do not have to pursue them before they do their corporate responsibilities, and we have exchanged lot of correspondence with them.

The Executive Director of Exxon Mobil, Mrs. Gloria Essien-Daner, who represented the organisation denied that the company had not completed the cleaning of the oil spill in the area.

Essien-Daner said: “We had a spill in May which we promptly reported and the quantity was very small compared to any history on oil spill. What is being shown is not oil. That is why there is need for joint inspection. Samples can be analyzed by the joint agencies. Two agencies wanted us to go to Calabar River, the crane was just carrying debris, and the Minister is enjoined to come and see our operations by himself.”


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