By Emman Ovuakporie and Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – THE Directorate of Petroleum Resources, DPR, yesterday at an investigative hearing at the House of Representatives accused the Nigeria Agip Oil Company, NAOC, of being responsible for 2418 spills in the Niger Delta region in the last six years.
A Director, Petroleum Resources at the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Mordecai Ladan, also blamed NAOC for the Azuzuama, Bayelsa State pipeline fire incident that claimed the lives of about 14 people including officials from NOSDRA, Bayelsa Ministry of Environment, NAOC and the contractor to NAOC on 9th July 2015.
Speaking at the Nasiru Garo-led Ad-hoc Committee on the activities of the Joint Task Force and the Nigeria Agip Oil Company in the Niger Delta, Ladan who was represented by Musa Zagi, said that most of the spills were as a result of sabotage.
According to him, “Several spills arising from operations of NAOC have occurred in the snigger Delta. In the last six years (2010 to 2016), a total of 2418 spill incidents have occurred ( 2010 -10 spills, 2011- 10 spills, 2012 -575spills. 2014- 788 spills, 2015 – 498 spills and 2016-332 spills with the highest number in 2014 (788).
“Most of the spills in 2012 to 2016 are attributed to sabotage due to the agitations in Niger Delta and given that the locations of most NAOC’s operational areas are on land and swamp.”
But Agip in a document sent to the Committee and signed by Mr. Paolo Carrievale, General Manager, District, denied being at fault in the fire incident.
He said, “During the process of inspection/ repair of the section of the 10th Cough Creek/Tebidaba Pipeline, fire was ignited at some distance from the work area by an unknown third party.
“The fire spread to the work area and engulfed the Inspection/ repair team, leading to the death of 14 persons. Including some members of the team.”
He said where the team was working was vandalized by the activities of suspected oil thieves, “who had illegally installed a valve on the pipeline for the purpose of stealing oil from the pipeline.”
In his address, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, condemned the activities of economic saboteurs in the oil producing communities across the Niger Delta region.
Dogara expressed regrets over the death of 14 people in Azuzuama community in Bayelsa state.
The Speaker who was represented by the Deputy Minority leader, Chukwuma Onyema said the Joint Task Force was set up by the Federal Government as a stop gap measure to check the above breakdown of law and order in the Niger Delta area mainly due to the dramatic rise of militancy in the Niger Delta area.
Dogara said: “Illegal refineries are a spill-over of the activities of militancy in the Niger Delta Area allegedly due to joblessness, poverty and hunger. Illegal oil refineries in Nigeria thrive on illegal oil bunkering, stolen crude oil, and vandalism of oil pipelines and other installations.
“Without a doubt, these illegal oil operations are reprehensible and should not be condoned for a number of reasons: Firstly, it is improper for citizens to destroy oil installations in their bid to steal crude oil as
feedstock for illegal refineries.
“Secondly, it is most inappropriate for anybody, Nigerians or foreigners, to steal crude oil belonging to the Nigerian State with impunity.
“Thirdly, there are serious environmental issues involved, regardless of whether they dump the residue from the crude oil distillation process into the river or simply incinerate it.”
Chairman of the Committee Nasiru Garo stated that the committee members conducted on the stop assessment of the affected Niger Delta area between 25th and 28th of September, 2015.
He said, “This visit afforded members of the committee first hand information on extent of environmental degradation of the Niger Delta area due to the activities of the illegal refineries operators as well as oil spillages that have been happening in the Niger delta area with very adverse effect on the ecosystem and aquatic life.
“The committee also visited NAOC facility to assess the integrity of their equipment as mandated.”