Oil-producing companies operating in the Niger Delta have spilled about 30 million barrels of crude oil into the environment since oil production started in Nigeria, according to statistics provided by Aveon Offshore.
The statistics also showed that poor production equipment accounts for one per cent of the spill in the Niger Delta, while corrosion of pipelines and tankers, illegal bunkering, as well as sabotage accounted largely for the rest of the spill.
Speaking on the spills at a special session of a recent oil conference in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, the General Manager of Aveon Offshore, Mr. Joseph Oduntoye, noted that the spills degraded the environment, with the communities bearing the impact.
“They (communities) witness slow poisoning of their waters; destruction of vegetation and increased health problems. Similarly, when you flare gas, it releases poisonous chemicals,” he said.
Oduntoye stated that oil-producing communities from “Eket to Forcados; Forcados to Odidi; Cawthorne Channel to Soku and from Okulama back to Port Harcourt and other communities hosting oil and gas infrastructure lacked portable water and other social amenities”.
“The people live in abject poverty and their rights are sometimes infringed upon. Attempts by the people to protest the negative impact of these activities are sometimes greeted with corruption and divide-and-rule tactics,” he said.
He attributed the agitation by the oil communities, violence, insecurity, sabotage and other illicit activities in the industry to the lack of commitment by the oil companies and the government to ensure that the communities participate in the industry.
“Of course, the resultant adverse effects on the Nigerian economy cannot be over-emphasised. It ranges from loss of revenue by the government and the oil companies to diversion of investment to neighbouring countries,” he added.
In a related development, the Federal Government and international oil companies (IOCs) operating in the country lose an estimated $7 billion (N1.05 trillion) to oil theft annually, the International Energy Agency (IEA), an energy policy advisor to the industrialised countries, has said in a recent report.
According to the report, the 28-member agency said Nigeria’s crude oil production had dropped to the lowest level for more than two years in October 2012, due to the recent flooding in some parts of the country and widespread theft of crude oil.
The IEA report noted that Nigeria’s crude oil output fell to 1.95 million barrels per day bpd) in October, after production in recent months ranged between 2m bpd and 2.5 million bpd.