Nembe Spill: Bayelsa, Aiteo, Regulators Disagree on Sabotage Claims

Olusegun Samuel in Yenagoa

The regulatory agencies investigating the November 5 oil spill at Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29 at Nembe, Bayelsa State, have attributed the incident which polluted the Santa Barbra River and Nembe creeks to sabotage.

This position stirred controversy as parties held divergent views because no consensus was reached by the joint investigative team after last Wednesday’s trip to the ill-fated oil well location at the bank of Santa Barbra River in Nembe.

The Joint Investigative Visit (JIV) to ascertain the cause, volume and impacted areas resumed last Wednesday following a visit by the Minister of State for Environment, Mrs. Sharon Ikeazor, a day earlier.

The JIV is a statutory probe that follows every reported leak incident.

The JIV, usually convened by the operator of the leak facility, is comprised of representatives of the oil firm, affected communities, regulators and state ministry of environment.

Speaking after the JIV yesterday, representatives of the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and the Nigerian Upstream

Petroleum Regulatory Commision (NUPRC) traced the leak to sabotage.

A representative of NOSDRA on the JIV, Mr. Ismail Baba-Ahmed, said from his expertise on fluid mechanics and his interactions with the well head experts who plugged the leak, only vandalism could have caused the spill.

He further explained that he gathered from the well head engineers that the threading on the well head casing where the valve was removed was not worn out, a development that suggests that the leak was not caused by pressure.

Also, Mr. Adetoyibo Adeyemi of NUPRC agreed with the position of NOSDRA, adding that physical examination of the failed well head from an engineering point of view indicates that the pressure from the oil well was not sufficient to blow the well.

However, the representatives of the impacted communities, state Ministry of Environment and Bayelsa State Technical Committee on the oil spill subsequently declined to sign the JIV report, and made the exercise inconclusive.

The Head of Pollution Control, Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment, Mr. Enai Reuben, noted that the JIV team was not able to see the exact point of leak for physical examination, hence could not ascertain the cause.

He said he had reservations over the procedure of scheduling the JIV after the operator had tampered and fixed the missing valves that would have been scrutinised by the JIV team.

According to him, it would be inaccurate to draw conclusion without seeing the leak point in an investigation that is evidence based and wondered why the well head could not be preserved for evaluation after the leak was stopped.

The leak, which was reported on November 5 was plugged on December 8, and some 16,280 barrels of crude oil and crude sediments have so far been recovered from the incident site.

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