*Say creeks, shorelines impacted
*Lament poor catch, looming hunger
By Samuel Oyadongha
RESIDENTS of Sangana and other coastal communities in Akassa Kingdom in Brass local government area of Bayelsa State have cried out over loss of their livelihood occasioned by the alleged continuous leakage of crude oil into the environment from an offshore facility in the area.
The troubled communities occupy the southernmost tip of Bayelsa and the country; where the Nun River estuary meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Though the cause of the spill could not be immediately ascertained, NDV learned that the leak, which started September 3, 2020, at Well 13, Otuo field allegedly owned by Conoil is discharged till date.
The natives who are predominantly fisher folks, told a team from the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) that visited the troubled area led by the Head, Bayelsa Office, Comrade Alagoa Morris lamentedthe continued discharge of crude into the environment has polluted the water bodies resulting in poor catch during fishing expedition.
Chairman of the United Fishing Union of Sangana, Ikonikumo Noel said: “The death of this fish (referring to a completely decomposed large fish and pointing towards the oil facilities in the sea) was caused by the oil spill from Conoil facility.
“The oil spill happened about three months ago. We have been looking for a way for the company to at least shut down the facility so that the effect would not come to us. But there has not been any solution. You see fishes are dying. Can you imagine, a big fish of this kind (picking up the decomposed fish, only skeleton remaining)?
Loss of livelihood
“Our people are suffering because of the spill as they can no longer catch fish unless they sail deep into the ocean. If you don’t have a high powered engine you cannot go there.
Also, the periwinkle and the different marine lives that we were managing to feed ourselves are no longer available due to this oil spill. We are suffering, we need government and the company to intervene so that we will have the means to feed ourselves and secure our children.”
Similarly, a former CDC Chairman of Sangana, Barrister Benjamin Ayibakuro while speaking on development said: “It has been a continuous one there. And you know this is on the shoreline. So each time the current changes direction to the land, it is just getting into the creeks and everywhere fish are dying.
“The incident happened in the Atlantic and the waves bring the crude oil to the shore. Report has been given to NOSDRA and Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment yet we are not seeing anything.”
Lamenting the situation in the area, President of Akassa Youth Leaders Forum, Telimoye Moses asserted, “we have videos taken at the wellhead site and our fisher folks going to sea still inform us that the crude oil is still floating and affecting their fishing activities till now. They complain that when they withdraw their fishing nets from the depth of the sea, the nets come out soiled with crude oil.
Threat to marine lives
Another concerned native, Ebiegberi Raynua (Youth Affairs Coordinator of Akassa Development Foundation) said: “No investigation has been carried out or any agencies like NOSDRA have come to find out what is happening and to hold culprits accountable.
“Fishing communities are suffering from oil devastation and damages as they call on relevant interventionists to be proactive and act fast to end this threat which is no doubt affecting conservation of marine ecosystems as the beach is major nesting ground for Green, olive ridley and leatherback turtles.”
Though the company could not be reached for comment, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria which visited the area expressed concern over the state of the environment and urged the industry regulators, especially the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment to investigate the matter and follow up in the interest of the environment.
ERA/FoEN through its Bayelsa Office Head, Comrade Alagoa Morris, said: “from video clips, photos and related testimonies from locals, it has been established that there has been an oil spill in the environment” adding “It is unfortunate that neither the facility owners nor any of the regulatory agencies have responded to the incident; even though they have been duly informed by community stakeholders in writing.”