The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has raised alarm over Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited’s failure to curtail the oil spill at Santa Barbra Well 1, South-west Field, in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
The leak has continued for three weeks.
A team of environmental field monitors led by the Vice President 2 of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) Alabo Nengi James, and the Project Officer/Head of Niger Delta Resource Centre at ERA/FoEN, Mr Alagoa Morris, paid a visit to Nembe community to examine the level of damage caused by the oil leak which occurred in Aiteo’s oil well on Friday, 5 November 2021.
The team said that examination conducted on the affected site showed that Aiteo had not done much in clamping the ruptured spot as oil continues to spew at high pressure three weeks after the major leak.
This was contained in a report titled “Three Weeks After, Aiteo’s OML 29 Well 1 Massive Spill Continues,” made available to the New Diplomat.
In the report, ERA/FOEN said a pungent smell of crude oil pervades the air even about two kilometers before sailing into Santa Barbara River.
The team also reported crude oil slick on the river which branched out from Santa Barbara oil well.
The report partly reads, “Apart from perceiving the pungent smell of crude oil and actually seeing crude oil on the water some kilometers away before getting to spill environment; it was shocking to find that crude oil was still spewing under high pressure into the environment three weeks after the Wellhead erupted.
“It is public knowledge that there has been no officially determined cause of the raging high pressure oil spill at OML 29 Well 1. Yet, the operator, Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company [AEEPCO], has gone to town with the usual oil industry politics, alleging sabotage when, in actual fact, it could be a case of equipment failure. As captured in ERA/FoEN’s field report in connection with the spill incident of 2nd October, 2019, a local source said this particular Wellhead often spew crude oil; maybe from high pressure.
“During ERA/FoEN’s visit on Sunday, 21st November, 2021, it was observed that even though booms (were used) to contain and prevent the spewed crude oil spreading from the Wellhead environment; the booms were not completely effective as large volume of crude oil was flowing out to the Santa Barbara River and spreading towards the Ocean. The direction of flow was facilitated by the ebbing tide/current. However, because the Santa Barbara River ebbs and return to full tide, upriver away from the spill point environment are also affected.”
Speaking with the team of ERA/FOEN, Helen Mark, a resident of the affected area, lamented that the continued oil spill had affected the livelihood of many people in the community.
She said many residents in the community have been unable to perform their normal activities, adding that the spill has been undermining the economic life of residents who are predominantly farmers and fishermen.
She also called on the state government and the Federal government to intervene and assist the people of the community.
Her words, ‘’We are fisher folks and since this oil spill spread on the river, we have been denied our means of livelihood as we no longer catch fish. We don’t even have fish to cook again, we are starving. We need empowerment; government should assist us. From what we are seeing, we might be deprived of fish in the river for a very long time to come.’’
Also speaking, the Director General, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, Mr. Idris Musa, rejected the explanation of Aiteo that the massive leak was caused by sabotage.
Musa, who spoke on the Arise TV, monitored by the New Diplomat, called for an immediate containment of the oil spill.
According to him, without the containment of the source of the oil spill the cause of the leak cannot be determined.
His words, “This oil spill matter is not a guess work and people must be serious in their minds. You cannot say it is sabotage yet because nobody as at today has gotten to place. The best you could do … is to get close enough. Until that oil is stopped and then nothing is pulling out of the wellhead, you can now take a look and see what is there at the pull point where the leakage is coming from. You can see from the picture on both left and right. So it is when you get there, could it be that the nuts that are there are no more there?
“Until you stop it, you cannot get there. So let nobody talk about sabotage or equipment failure now, let us get there. It is something that can be determined by fact not by simulation, not by just guess work. The cause of the spill as of now is unknown until we are able to get to the base of the wellhead and see what really happened.”