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Environmentalists, regulators visit spill impacted communities in Bayelsa

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By Samuel Oyadongha, Yenagoa

Preliminary investigations into the January 16, 2021 oil leak near Funiwa offshore facilities. off the Atlantic coast have commenced with a visit by Bayelsa government officials, regulatory agencies and representatives of impacted communities.

Local fishermen around the Atlantic coastline of Bayelsa State had on January 17 sighted and reported an oil leak suspected to be from the Funiwa oilfields following the leakage of the previous day.

But the operator of the nearby Funiwa oilfield, Chevron denied responsibility for the leakage.

It would be recalled that Chevron, First Exploration and Production (First E& P) and Conoil Producing Limited have operations near the spill incident location.

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An environmentalist and Head of Field Operations, Environmental Rights Action, Mr Alagoa Morris, who was on the entourage on Friday explained that the visit was not the statutory Joint Investigative Visit (JIV) that usually follows a spill.

He said the trip could not be a JIV as none of the oil companies operating in the area was represented adding that it was a fact-finding mission to assess the level of impact on the people and environment.

“The visit was an assessment trip to see things and suggest the way forward given the fact that no oil company has owned up, it cannot be a JIV because no oil company was represented so we shall submit an interim report to guide further action,” Morris said.

Also Mr Kiwei Emmanuel, Youth President of Koluama I, one of the worst-hit areas by the spill said that the team was made up of officials of Bayelsa Ministries of Environment, Mineral Resources as well as Senior Special Assistant to Bayelsa Governor on oil and gas matters.

According to him, the regulators, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) took samples from the sediments at the coastline for laboratory tests to trace the source of pollution.

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Emmanuel said members of the team also saw heaps of fishing nets, fishing gear and accessories destroyed by the oil leak and traced the spread of the crude along the coast into the creeks and mangrove vegetation.

It was also learned that the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) had summoned all the oil firms operating in the shallow waters near Koluama in Bayelsa in a bid to identify the source of the leaks which had polluted the area.

Mr Musa Idris, Director-General at NOSDRA had assured that the spill regulatory agency would dispatch its officials to the incident site.

Efforts to speak with Bayelsa Commissioner of Environment, Mr Iselema Gbaranbiri on why the oil firms operating in the area were not on the trip was unsuccessful as his line was not going through.

Also, Conoil and First Exploration and Production could not be reached for comment on the incident.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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