By Udeme AKPAN & Egufe YAFUGBORH
THE operations of Eroton Exploration & Production Company Limited, currently producing 30,000 barrels per day, bpd from Oil Mining Lease, OML 18 have been threatened as Buguma, Bille and other neighbouring communities have emerged as major strongholds for illegal refineries in Rivers state.
Investigations by Sweetcrude over the weekend showed that soot, a product of prolonged illegal refining currently cover the sky as a result of increasing illegal refining in the area.
An indigene of Buguma, Mr. Allen Harry said: “People shout about soot in Port Harcourt, but Buguma, Bille and environs rank among the biggest hubs in Rivers state. That means the soot we inhale constitutes serious threat to life than what is obtainable in Port Harcourt, the state capital.
“So oil companies may suffer economic and operations setbacks when their operating assets are vandalised, but the majority poor host community dwellers are the worst victims going by the impact of vandalism, oil theft and illegal refineries.”
He said: “We are dying before our times without knowing it. Children and adults alike are suffering strange illnesses, leading to strange death. I live in Port Harcourt and occasionally when I visit my home in Buguma, the thickness of soot that envelopes my home furniture and the entire place are frightening. We are killing ourselves because our sons and daughters are along those perpetrating the assets vandalism degrading our environment.”
Investigations showed that Eroton, operator of Oil Mining Lease, OML 18, responds to assets vandalism when it affects her assets, like the last fire incident on its Buguma Gas Well10.
But other people attributed some spills to other reasons. For instance, an opinion leader in the community, Mr. Jack Boyle said: “The ceaseless, particular occasioned by oil theft which have critically degraded the environment, has become an easy cover for oil firms to go away with genuine spills and degradation triggered by sheer failure of their equipment.
“The ceaseless, particular occasioned by oil theft which have critically degraded the environment, has become an easy cover for oil firms to go away with genuine spills and degradation triggered by sheer failure of their equipment.”
However, Chief Executive Officer of the company, Mr. Ebiaho Emafo, could not be reached as the company did not respond to emails and text messages.