Ogoni clean-up
Ogoni land, polluted with oil spills

Releases commercial oil into environment

Clean-up yet to start over 30 days after

By Udeme Akpan, Energy Editor

A Federal Government agency, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, has classified the controversial Aiteo Eastern E&P Company oil spill in Oil Mining Lease, OML 29, as a Tier 2 (major) incident, currently pumping commercial oil into the environment.

This was even as the company has not been able to stop the oil spill since it started on November 5, this year, thus affecting fishing in the area.

The Director General, NOSDRA, Idris Musa, who confirmed the severity of the incident in a telephone interview with Vanguard, weekend, said the oil spill is beyond the capacity of a single company like Aiteo to handle.

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Specifically, Musa, whose agency was established in 2006 as an institutional framework to coordinate the implementation of the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) for Nigeria in accordance with the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation (OPRC 90) to which Nigeria is a signatory, said: “It is a Tier 2 spill, which is beyond the capacity of one company. The Clean Nigeria Associates, CNA, a non-profit Organization and a co-operative of several oil-producing companies in Nigeria is getting involved.”

No one has gone beyond one kilometer

Musa also said: “But for now, no one has gone beyond one kilometer, due to the very difficult terrain. The oil spill is widespread. Boots and Coots has been engaged for cleanup. The public should be patient.”

Providing explanation in its report – Tiered Preparedness and Response – obtained by Vanguard, the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers, which classifies oil spill responses into Tier 1, 2 and 3, stated: “Tier 1 capabilities describe the operator’s locally held resources used to mitigate spills that are typically operational in nature occurring on or near an operator’s own facility. In some situations, extra resources may be required from national or regional Tier 2 providers to increase response capacity or to introduce more specialist technical expertise. Tier 3 capabilities are globally available resources that further supplement Tiers 1 and 2.”

CNA keeps mute

The General Manager, CNA, Cyril Ezeaku, whose organization has Addax Petroleum, Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited, NNPC Limited, ExxonMobil, Seplat Energy, Chevon, Total Energies, Belemaoil, Midwestern, Moni Pulo, DOCL, Amni, Pan Ocean, Yinka Folawiyo and Eni, as members could not be reached.

The Duty Coordinator, Oil Spill Emergency, CNA, who did not disclose his name, said he was not competent to speak.

However, in a report obtained from its website, the organization boasted that, “CNA Oil Spill Response Equipment (SRE) and materials are currently strategically stockpiled in two main bases and four strategic bases in Nigeria. The two main bases are located at the Nigeria Ports Authority, in Port Harcourt and the Temile Facility, Ogunu in Warri.”

Expert

Commenting on the development, Executive Director, SPACES FOR CHANGE |S4C, Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, said: “An oil spill has occurred in Opu Nembe Community at the southern field of Sant Barbara in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State allegedly caused by oil leakages from crude pipelines owned by Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited (AITEO). The spill resulted in an inferno that started on November 5, 2021, destroying traditional livelihoods, crops and economic trees; contaminating water and food sources, and killing all sorts of aquatic creatures. Reports reaching SPACES FOR CHANGE|S4C show that the fire has not yet been put out and is still ravaging the community for more than 20 days.

“Beyond the massive economic losses, the people of Opu Nembe community have suffered incalculable damage to their physical, social and cultural environments. SPACES FOR CHANGE strongly condemns this resurgence of environmental irresponsibility by oil corporations operating in the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria.

“Eyewitnesses told SPACES FOR CHANGE that the spillage started on November 5, 2021, without AITEO Limited taking concrete steps to stop the inferno. Whatever steps, if any, are taken remain ineffective as the inferno and the massive oil spills gushing out of AITEO’s facilities remain unrestrained to date.

“Residents lament that water from the local streams heavily coated with crude oil is neither usable nor drinkable. Fishing nets, boats and other hunting wares worth several millions of Naira have been damaged beyond repair.The incident is an unfortunate replay of the laissez-faire attitude of oil corporations where petro-powered profits come first before the life and wellbeing of local communities. Oil corporations like AITEO can brazenly leave oil spills and the accompanying inferno uncontrolled for several days because of the weak and extremely lax regulatory environment in the country where accountability for environmental injustices lag behind.

“AITEO’s handling of the spill in Opu Nembe community not only constitutes a dereliction of corporate responsibility but also violates the Opu Nembe’s peoples’ right to development, dignity and clean environment as guaranteed in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and a host of international human rights instruments which Nigeria has ratified.” 

However, SPACES FOR CHANGE|S4C demands that, “AITEO immediately begins the process of remediation of the environment in Opu Nembe community. Regulatory agencies should ensure that AITEO applies international best practices in the land remediation exercises. In addition to a swift clean-up, AITEO should take immediate steps to compensate people whose properties and livelihoods have been gravely affected by the inferno. Last but not least, the investigation into the cause of the spill must be made open to members of the public without distortion or interference as has always been the practice of oil multinationals.”

Communities’ apprehension

In any case, an investigation by Vanguard showed that residents of Nembe, in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State remain apprehensive following the oil spill.

In a telephone interview with Vanguard, a Community leader, Nengi James-Eriworio, said: “Since the occurrence of this sad incident, nothing has changed. Our environment is still being polluted everyday because the authorities have not been able to stop the spillage and we are not sure how long we would have to live with it.”

 Aiteo’s declaration

Aiteo’s spokesman, Ndiana Mathew, had stated: “The magnitude of this incident is of an extremely high order. Neither the cause of the spill, nor the quantity of leaked hydrocarbon could be determined at the time of the discovery.”

State governor reacts

The Bayelsa State governor, Senator Douye Diri, who visited the area, had also said: “Today happens to be a very dark day for me. What we have seen, I believe, is worse than what happened in the Gulf of Mexico. In all my life, I have not seen such a magnitude of oil spillage.“Our people are endangered. Our people’s source of livelihood is endangered. I empathize and sympathize with the people of Nembe on behalf of the government and the people of Bayelsa State.”

“I like to give you hope that we will stand shoulder to shoulder with you. Your government will activate every constitutional means to arrest and redress this magnitude of the oil spill.

 “I, therefore, call on the Federal Government, the operators of the oil field, NNPC and AITEO to immediately look for superior technical know-how to contain and stop the spread of the oil.

“For Bayelsa, the only thing we know how to do best is fishing. Today, our own fishing route is endangered. I equally call on the Federal Government to immediately react and ensure that our fishing route is safe.”

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Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.