…Sylva visits Nembe, inspects spillage site
…Bayelsa govt urges Aiteo to expedite action on spill
…Sets up assessment c’ttee
By Samuel Oyadongha & Emem Idio
NINETEEN days after the spill at the Santa Barbara Well 1 in Oil Mining Lease, OML 29 operated by Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company, AEEPCO, in the Nembe creek, Bayelsa State, the well head is still spewing crude into the environment, polluting farmhands and the creeks.
It was learned that the pressure from the well, which has been dormant and non producing since its acquisition in 2015 and securely isolated has reduced while recovery efforts are ongoing.
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva, yesterday, visited the site of the spill.
President Muhammadu Buhari, it was learned, had on Tuesday directed the minister, an indigene of the area to proceed to Nembe to assess the situation.
Sylva inspects spillage site
Sylva, who landed in Nembe in an helicopter at 12.40p.m., in company of the member representing Nembe/Brass federal constituency, Israel Sunny- Goli and CEO, Upstream Regulatory Commission, said the president was feeling the pain of the people of the impacted communities and local government council.
He said: “It is a very sad development but these things happen. They are operational hazards of the business. Mr. President is very concerned personally and that is why he asked us, his team to come and inspect and make sure that the appropriate action is taken to ameliorate the situation.
“It is not just I that feels their pain, Mr. President feels their pain too and that is why he personally instructed me and the CEO of the Upstream Regulatory Authority to come and assess the situation and take appropriate actions to ensure the people are taken care of.”
Bayelsa govt urges Aiteo to expedite action on spill
Also, Bayelsa State government has called on the Aiteo Group to expedite action to contain the oil spill.
Governor Douye Diri represented by his deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, made the call, yesterday, at the State Executive Council meeting In Yenagoa.
He expressed concern over the spillage of crude oil and its attendant degradation of the environment and called on Aiteo to take urgent steps at initiating remediation efforts towards ensuring that the spill at its facility was brought under control.
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He further directed the Commissioner for Environment; his Mineral Resources counterpart; Deputy Chief of Staff, Deputy Governor’s office; Commissioner for Information; Special Adviser to the Governor on Security I as well as the Attorney-General of the state and Commissioner for Justice to undertake an on-the-spot assessment of the spill site.
It was gathered that three barges of 1,000 barrels capacity of recovered crude oil have been evacuated from the boomed area while the fourth is being loaded.
However, the officials of the indigenous company had visited the leadership of the impacted communities to show empathy with the victims and handed over four truckloads of food items, medical supplies while it battles to stop the leak.
Though Aiteo had in a statement said it was seeking foreign technical expertise to halt the ongoing November 5 oil leak at the facility, the spewing well is yet to abate.
A source told Vanguard that no fewer than 40 communities have been impacted in the area while the escaping crude is gradually spreading towards the Kula axis in the neighbouring Rivers State.
Aiteo, an indigenous oil firm, which acquired OML 29 following the 2015 divestment by Shell, maintained that the leak was caused by oil thieves, who have become an obstacle to oil production and export from the asset.
But lamenting the sad turn of event in the area, some stakeholders who spoke to Vanguard criticised the delay by the Federal Government in visiting since the spill started.
An environmentalist and indigene of the area, Iniruo Wills, earlier, said: “It is a reflection of disconnected and dysfunctional governance in Nigeria that no high ranking government or regulatory figure at federal or state level has visited the site of this Tier-III oil disaster or the affected communities to get an on-the-ground view and send strong signals and assurances to stakeholders respectively. Official unseriousness in our land is on a mind-boggling level.
“When the Macondo blowout of similar magnitude occurred offshore of the US in 2010, President Obama himself went to the area multiple times, besides the full complement of national contingency and relief management at the highest levels, from relevant Secretaries of State (their equivalents of our Ministers) to the Coast Guard to you name it.
“The operator, BP, was ordered to immediately set aside $20 billion as an initial fund towards addressing containment, cleanup, compensation and related costs, which accumulated to almost $100 billion since then. I wonder which of our political and regulatory CEOs is more important than President Obama of that day that they remain ensconced in their air-conditioned offices in capital cities. We say to them: go to the field to get the right sights and sounds.”
Also, former Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Tarinyo Akono, described the 19 days old oil spill as a national embarrassment.
“The in ability of the company to stop the spill but rather request for help also brings to question the highly publicized progress said to have been made in the Nigerian Content Development under the NCDMB.
“The Ministry of Petroleum Resources should start bracing up for a massive protest in it’s Abuja office by the end of this week, if the spill was not contained.”
Vanguard News Nigeria