19 June 2015, Lagos – Unknown persons, suspected to be arsonists, have set fire to a fresh oil spill which affected Ossiama, Ogboinbiri, Okpotuwari and neighbouring communities of the Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
Although the cause of the spill could not be ascertained, the fire was said to have been discovered by some residents on June 16, 2015.
A community source, who did not want to be named, said the spill site was very close to another spill that occurred on April 23, 2015.
“This is happening when the former spill site of April 2015 has yet to be attended to in terms of clean-up,” the source said on Thursday.
He said a Joint Investigation Visit conducted on the devastated site indicated that the April 23 incident was caused by equipment failure.
He said since the JIV exercise was conducted, neither Agip officials nor the personnel of the regulatory agencies, including the Ministry of Environment, the Department of Petroleum Resources and the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency had re-visited the impacted site.
According to him, remediation has not also been carried out on the affected environment of the impacted communities.
He said the crude oil slick could spread fast into the surrounding swamps, farms, farmlands, creeks and rivulets in the coming days of the rainy season.
There were also indications on Thursday that the fear of cholera outbreak and other epidemics had gripped the people of the area.
Acting paramount ruler of Okpotuwari, Moses Tiger, confirmed the recent incident.
He said that the community had notified Agip on “this fresh spill but they have yet to visit the site”.
The monarch said, “This fire started on Tuesday (June 16, 2015) evening and is still on till today. I can see a thick column of smoke rising from the site.
“Agip should spare us of this environmental destruction by responding promptly to oil spills. The delay in mobilising to spill sites even when the company has been duly informed. Their attitude of dragging their feet to clean-up impacted sites is very annoying.”
Reacting on the development, the Environmental Rights Action decried the delay by Agip to visit the oil spill site.
Head of ERA’s Bayelsa Office, Alagoa Morris, said it was important for the oil company to mobilise to the affected site, while the regulatory agencies should rise up to their responsibility.
Calls to Agip Public Relations Officer, Dan Onyeghala, rang out.