05 January 2015, Ikebiri – It was a foggy Yuletide for the indigenes of riverside town of Ikebiri, host to Nigerian Agip Oil Company, NAOC and Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, Olodiama clan, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, as the community recorded yet another crude oil spill that polluted rivers and creeks on Christmas Day.
Inhabitants of the predominantly farming and fishing community woke up on Christmas Day to see massive crude oil slick floating on their river allegedly from a fresh spill at Tebidada Well 9 owned by NAOC the previous day.
Frantic efforts to contain spill
Niger Delta Voice could not reach NOAC to ascertain the cause of the spill, but a source said Agip officials pleaded with some community leaders to allow them access to the wellhead to contain further spread, but the community was suspicious of its intention based on previous experience.
Bemoaning the latest spill, chair, Community Development Committee, Ikebiri community, Godgift Diepreye Lambert said, “I am saddened by the turn out of events; I am really disappointed and this is why the community has continued to withdraw confidence in Agip and the regulators.
“Due to the communications between us, (with Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, FoEN) and the way Agip was putting pressure with repeated calls and to save the environment, I allowed them to effect a shut down and now they are saying they do not know the cause of the spill. For this unfortunate reason, even my own fellow community leaders are shifting the blame on me for allowing Agip to shut down the well.”
His words: “They came with four gunboats, loaded with armed military personnel. After taking a critical look at the spill point, they said we should go to their Station at Tebidaba Flow station where they will inform us of the cause. Very strange, though this is not the first time they (regulators and Agip) doing this.
“This happened in November, last year too. We agreed and went with them to the flow station, but unfortunately, we left the station very late without them telling us any meaningful thing about what caused the spill. My greatest surprise is the attitude of the regulators. How do they expect us to have confidence in them if they cannot say the truth of what they saw?
Also commenting on the matter, the CDC chair of Ikebiri 3, Wisdom Taylor, said: “First of all, let me confirm that there is a current oil spill in Ikebiri environment, precisely from Tebidaba Well 9 belonging to NAOC. I have never seen this kind of oil spill since I was born in terms of the volume of crude oil spewed into the environment.
“At the end of the day, JIV exercise took place and there was no result, it was tagged as inconclusive and they told us that the team that came for the JIV was not experienced enough and so they sent another team two days later. The JIV took place first on 27 December 2015 and we went back for another one on 29 December 2015.
“All this while, the crude oil was still pouring from the wellhead, polluting the whole terrain: water in Creeks and Rivers (from when it was first discovered on 25th). Even though they told us that the first set of officials from Agip were not qualified to pronounce the cause of spill, it was sad that those who came for the second day were also unable to tell us what caused the spill.
Crude oil still leaking
“As I talk with you now, crude oil is still dropping from the wellhead into the water even though it has been shut down. The residual pressure is still sending crude oil out. Our environment is seriously impacted, as we speak.
“So we need the government, Agip and the involvement of environmental groups like ERA to come in and find solution to our current problem, as the crude oil has seriously affected our source of drinking water and fishing.
“Although I have seen other spills in the past, none is like this one, this is a very serious spillage. The people [Agip and regulators] are just dribbling us as if we are so naïve and do not know anything. I do not have much to say but let me conclude by saying the regulators who went for the JIV [NOSDRA and State Ministry of Environment] are in full support of Nigerian Agip Oil Company. That was why they were unable to pronounce what they saw [as cause of spill]. Agip brought their experts with tools/equipment, carried out tests on the spot of leakage,” Taylor added.
Regulatory agency should be above aboard
Reacting to the matter, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, FOEN, which carried out a report after the community contacted it, said: “Not only oil companies, regulators should also be equipped enough to provide some testing tools/equipment to save them from embarrassment and losing the confidence of the people and communities. When the communities completely lose confidence in regulators of the oil industry; it would result in serious conflict.
“Agip should ensure the impacted swamps, creeks and rivers are properly cleaned up as soon as possible and the regulators, NOSDRA and State Ministry of Environment, should prevail on Agip to do the needful,” the group added.