Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The Nigerian military has confirmed that at least six persons suspected to be the masterminds of last weekend’s fire incident at OML 29, operated by Aiteo, were killed during the inferno which engulfed the facility.
Aiteo, an indigenous company which acquired the oilfield from Shell in 2014, had shut oil injection on the line and declared ‘Force Majeure’ on product exports, following the fire incident on April 2.
The revelation came even as the company confirmed that the fire outbreak reported within its Right Of Way(ROW) of the Nembe Creek Trunkline, Nembe local government of Bayelsa State, had been put out.
An Aiteo Spokesman, Ndiana Matthew, said the security team conducted further inspections at various times and confirmed that the fire had been contained.
He added that in line with regulatory requirements, a Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) comprising security and regulatory agencies as well as community representatives and Aiteo personnel will be constituted and deployed to the site to attend to the necessary incident formalities.
While on a visit to the location, the new JTF Commander in the Niger Delta, Rear Admiral Akinjide Akinrinade, told journalists at the site at Awoba, along the 97 kilometre Nembe-Bonny oil export pipeline, that troops on surveillance at a nearby houseboat who arrived the scene confirmed that all the suspected vandals who breached the pipeline under high pressure died from the ensuing explosion.
Akinrinade, who was on the inspection with Rear Admiral David Adeniran, Flag Officer Commanding, Eastern Naval Command, expressed regret at the development which led to the outage of the 150,000 bpd Nembe Creek Trunk Line.
While noting that the security operatives responded immediately, he added that although the vandals died during the illegal operation, the military was tracking their collaborators.
The Commander assured that the joint military force, Operation Delta Safe would redouble its efforts against oil theft and pipeline vandalism and assured oil firms in the Niger Delta of safety of its personnel and facilities.
He said: “I am here for an on-the-spot assessment, following the fire incident on the Nembe Creek Trunkline, which is a critical national asset and to restate our commitment to protecting oil facilities in the Niger Delta region.
“This incident has adverse economic implications and the military high command is concerned, that is why I am here with my component commanders and we shall continue to provide security to the oil firms.
“I assure the oil firm of security to ensure that the breached point on the line is traced and fixed.”
It was observed that the remains of the suspected vandals and oil thieves were being recovered in the creeks when the commander visited the area.
Local divers were also seen searching for more dead bodies near the fire disaster scene along the creeks of the area.
The company had in a similar incident, shut down the facility, only restarting it a week later, due to an explosion from a well head in the creeks of Nembe, Bayelsa State.