A special environmental report about the Nembe oil spill incident in Bayelsa State has revealed that operational failure on the part of Aiteo Exploration and Production Company Limited, and Shell Petroleum Development Company was responsible for both the current hydrocarbon disaster and previous ones in the state.
The oil spillage caused by a blowout from a well head of Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29 well 1 in the Santa Barbara River, Nembe Local Government, Bayelsa State, operated by AITEO, has caused serious environmental concerns with gas and crude oil consistently spewing out and spreading in the water body and across the mangrove vegetation in the area.
The spill which started on November 1, 2021, has been on for the past one month, causing destruction of economic activities in the area and also posing threat to the health of the people, as Niger Delta Congress (NDC) had lamented its statement last week.
The report titled “Woes of the Wellhead”, released on Wednesday by Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) in collaboration with Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth International (ERA/FoEI), raised concern about the grave environmental hazards suffered by the people in the area as a result of oil spillage, pointing out that the oil companies usually blame it on people in the host communities, rather than taking responsibility for their operational failure.
The report indicated that AITEO has been unable to manage the situation in Nembe which accounts for the continuous spill of oil and gas from the well head.
It said, “During the ﬁeld visit by monitors, it was observed that booms deployed by the company to contain and prevent further spread of the crude were not completely effective as large volume of the 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.”
With the constant flow of crude oil, the environment is heavily polluted, the report added.
On government response to the disaster, HOMEF raised some concerns. The environmental Non Governmental Organisation stated that it is not enough for the Federal Government to send the minister of State for petroleum Chief Timipre Sylva to visit Nembe, but the President Muhammadu Buhari who is also the Minister of Petroluem Resources should “at least also visit the site of the well blowout to physically ascertain the extent of damages the spill has caused on the lives and livelihoods of the poor community people who depend solely on the proceeds from their coastal environment for sustenance.”
The group also recommended that the Federal Governemnt through the relevant agencies should discontinue the policy of divestment by International Oil Companies (IOCs) which is giving opportunities for indigenous oil companies to invest in the industry, adding that the IOCs should first carry out comprehensive overhaul of the oil facilities.
“We are hereby calling on the Federal Government of Nigeria to take the bold step of visiting the wellhead blowout site as well as stopping all forms of divestments by multinational oil companies until they replace all decrepit facilities, clean up all spills, and also make hefty security deposits against accidents of this nature,” HOMEF stated in the report.