June 9, 2009

Residents flee as oil spill ravages 10 Warri communities

By Emma Arubi

WARRI—A major crude oil spill from an oil Vessel, J.S. Amazing, Lagos, IMO 7304443, at the NNPC Refinery Jetty, Ijalla, Warri, Delta State, has polluted the main Warri rivers, affecting more than ten surrounding communities.

Some of the affected communities include Ijalla, Iffie, Aja-Etan, Ubeji, Ugbodede, Ugbuwangue, Usele, Inorin, Ajigba, Orugbo, etc.

The vessel that was alleged to be carrying Low Pour Fuel Oil (LPFO), a by-product of crude oil, developed a huge leak in one of its storage tanks at about 1:00am last Friday night leading to a massive spill of the black oil into the tidal waters, which has spread several kilometers and caused enormous damage to the vegetation and aquatic lives of the impacted communities.

A resident of Ijalla community, who spoke to Vanguard on condition of anonymity, said they were moving out in droves for fear of fire out break because he alleged that the PPMC and WRPC do not have the required equipment to contain the spill that was still flowing at press time yesterday.

He debunked the state-owned radio broadcasting station which reported that the spill was from Ekeremo Manifold owned by a major oil prospecting company in the state and is likely to have been caused by saboteurs, describing the said report as lacking thorough investigation and intended to tarnish the good name of youths in the surrounding environment.

Sources told Vanguard that the spill was first reported by WRPC, a subsidiary of NNPC, which also claimed that the vessel does not belong to them and so could not take responsibility.

But Mr. Kike, the Fire and Safety Superintendent of Product and Pipelines Marketing Company, PPMC, another subsidiary of the NNPC, told Vanguard on telephone that they had called in Clean Nigeria Association (CAN) to help contain the spill with officials of the company that owns the vessel.

He added that efforts are being made to contact National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and other relevant regulatory bodies.

When Vanguard contacted the office of NOSDRA, whose function it is to handle all matters relating to oil spill in the country, officials of the agency said no formal report had reached them, noting, however, that they were aware of the massive spill and hoped to go on a Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) soon.

NOSDRA sources told Vanguard that no action ought to have been taken by the PPMC and CNA without involving them since they are also on ground and the various companies knew the operating laws regulating spillages and their control.

The sources added that these are some of the problems created by companies in their bid to cheat the impacted communities, which often lead to crisis in the region.

Another source at the NNPC Jetty told Vanguard that the J.S. Amazing oil Vessel brought in the crude for further catalytic processing into petrol, diesel and kerosene when it developed the leakage that took the authorities three days to respond to.

At the office of NOSDRA, Vanguard saw scores of various community youths making report of the incident and urging the officers on duty to act fast to prevent the situation from getting out of hand.