•Says argument of sabotage no excuse
•Shell confirms spill •Investigation panel fail to visit site
The Bayelsa State Government has decried the high incidence of oil and gas spills from platforms operated by multinational oil companies in the state.
It has therefore threatened that there will be consequences for such spills within communities in the state henceforth.
State’s Commissioner for Environment, Inuro Wills, issued the threat, while addressing newsmen late Wednesday when he, accompanied by officials of Ministry of Environment and members of the State House of Assembly, visited the impacted site of an spill from the Kolo Creek Manifold at Otuasega, Ogbia Local Government Area, belonging to Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC).
He said: “Whatever the cause of the spill, whether it is caused by sabotage or equipment failure, we will have to carefully think of the next thing to do.
“There has to be consequences. Even if it is (caused by) sabotage, that does not mean that everyone concerned is free from consequences because, clearly, there is a pattern. Almost on a daily basis there is one oil spill or the other in Bayelsa State.”
Panic-stricken residents of Otuasega, Imiringi and neighbouring Ogbia communities had raised the alarm when they noticed the oil spill early on Wednesday.
“The oil leaking from a crude trunk line connecting the Kolo Creek fields to SPDC’s pipeline network has flown into the communities and devastated farmlands and vegetation in the area,” a resident of the area, Anthony Okpu said.
The commissioner insisted that the government and people of the state would no longer tolerate incessant pollution of their environment, lamenting the spill which she said is “yet another demonstration of how oil and gas production in Nigeria, especially in the Niger Delta and Bayelsa State where we are right now, is done.
“This is how it threatens our environment, how it is a danger to our people, to our communities, life, public health and even to economic activities.
“You can see in the backdrop across the road, you can see vegetation, you can see economic crops all over the place, you can see how crude oil splashed all over them.
“If proper precaution is not taken in terms of protecting or even clearing the affected area, you can imagine how affected the food chain and economic cycle proceeding from there, the hazard involved. This will end up affecting people’s dinning tables”, Wills added.
He also described as “fundamentally flawed” the current structure of the Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) team to spill sites comprising officials of operating oil firms, Ministry of Environment, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and representatives of impacted communities.
Spokesman of Shell Petroleum Development Company in neighbouring Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Joseph Obari, in an emailed statement to our correspondent in Yenagoa, had while confirming the oil leak, stressed that “a JIV will be conducted tomorrow (Thursday) to confirm the cause of the spill.”
The JIV could however not visit the impacted communities on Thursday as earlier planned and no reason was adduced for this. Spokesman of the Environment Ministry did not also make available the itinerary of the JIV to Daily Independent as earlier promised, probably due to the shift.
Daily Independen had yesterday reported that there was palpable fear in the early hours of Wednesday, when residents of Otuasega, Imirngi and other neighbouring communities of Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa reported noticing the oil leak at Kolo Creek Manifold, belonging to SPDC.
The panic-stricken residents lamented that as a result of the leak, crude is discharging into the environment.
Okpu, a resident of the community also told Daily Independent: “We do not know exactly when the oil leak started, but this morning we saw crude leaking from the pipeline into the road and when we got there soldiers had already cordoned off the whole area.
“They do not allow us to get near to find out the possible cause of the leak on the pipeline. We woke up this early morning to see this in our community.
“I believe that the soldiers must have reported the incident so that they can shut down the pipeline crude feed to forestall further damage to the environment, but oil is still gushing out of the line”, he added.
Our correspondent, who visited the site of impact at 1:45pm on Wednesday, observed that the soldiers were deployed at the instance of Shell to cordon off the Edepie-Imiringi Road and the Bayelsa Palm-Elebele Road, two major routes leading to the affected area, miles away from the leak site.
The soldiers used security patrol vans marked “Army Escort” to block the roads on both axis to prevent vehicles and tricycles from going to the impacted communities.
Rights watchdog, Amnesty International, last month, raised the alarm that global oil giants- Shell and ENI reported a total of 553 oil spills in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region in 2014, more than enough to prompt a national emergency had it happened elsewhere.
A breakdown of the figure by AI, quoting latest figures released by both companies, showed that while Anglo-Dutch Shell reported 204 spills last year, the Italian major ENI admitted 349.
Nonetheless, a statement by Amnesty said at 30,000 barrels, or five million litres, the reported figure is “highly likely to be a significant underestimate,” the group said, citing poor reporting of spills in the Niger Delta.
The statement quoted its Global Issues Director, Audrey Gaughran, as saying “ENI has clearly lost control over its operations in the Niger Delta,” the southern, crude producing region.
ENI, owner of Nigerian Agip Oil Company had owned up to over 500 oil spills in 2013. The Nigerian regulator reported 474 oil spills from ENI operations in 2012.