Barely 30 days after Obrikom Obiafu community in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area, ONELGA, experienced an explosion from gas leakage that took many lives, Blessing Ibunge reports that Obagi community in same LGA have lamented fresh gas explosion which engulfed their farmlands, an explosion one too many caused by the many Multinationals that dot the land
Obagi community, one of the host communities of the Nigerian Agip Oil Company and other multinationals, is still in deep pain over a gas explosion that destroyed their farmlands, economic trees and other sources of livelihood.
According to an indigene of the community, Morgan Destiny, Agip has been operating in the land for over three decades with nothing to show that such multinational is present in the area.
While the community people were retiring from their daily activities on Wednesday, at about 8pm, there were shouts of heavy fire outbreak coming out from Udeta farmland in Obagi, very close to residential houses.
This cry caused all members of the community to be on alert, while the youths and other healthy men in the community moved towards the site of the incident, seeking for a solution to end the fire that could have caused deadly disasters, including taking lives. But the incident was tamed, with the effort of the community people, the Agip company officials who later came and other assistance.
A visit by THISDAY to the scene of the incident at the weekend revealed that the fire from the explosion destroyed farmlands, economic trees, including palm trees and other sources of livelihood. It was gathered that the incident caused residents and indigenes of Obagi to desert the community at the moment for fear of being killed by the fire that erupted from the leaking point of the gas on a facility owned by Agip.
On Saturday, December 23, 2023, it was reported that an explosion from facilities of Agip Company in Obrikom Obiafu 1 & 2, claimed many lives, injured others and destroyed about four farm plantations.
While there were reports of over 35 lives lost in the incident, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Rivers State Command revealed that the incident claimed 12 lives and blamed pipeline vandals for the fire explosion that occurred in the early hours of the said Saturday, in Obrikom Obiafu. The NSCDC Commandant in the State, Basil Igwebueze, who condemned the acts that led to the fire explosion, said the incident would have been averted if vandals did not tamper with the pipelines in the area.
But the incident of Obagi, investigation revealed that the gas pipeline belonging to NAOC have been leaking for since middle of last year, even when the community tried reaching the company, the incident continued. No death was recorded in the incident as early intervention prevent such occurrence.
The ONELGA Chairman, Vincent Job, who spoke on the incident in Obagi, blamed equipment failure. He regretted that the community hosting the Agip gas pipelines and partly flow station is still in dependable state. He however, called on the federal government and the multinational to expedite action and ensure such incident never occurred again, adding that the people of the community needs development in many areas.
Job expressed that “although experts have more things to say about it. For us who are novice in oilfield we found out that it is equipment failure, because some of these equipment have lasted more than 30-40 years and this calls for removal, repair or replacement of those pipelines.
“The women suffer a lot of this degradation. So the federal government and the International Oil Companies should ensure that their pipelines and facilities are up to date. If there are ones that have spanned for so long, they should be replaced.
“So far, we have not had any casualty in the gas incident at Obagi, but the degradation was enormous, even the noise coming from that place, I went there myself and saw it on a spot, I couldn’t even get closer because if there is any spark, so many lives will be lost.
“We are calling on the federal government as much as they are collecting their crude, is a natural economy, they should also ensure that they put every other thing in place that will keep the livelihood of the locals”.
On the life standard of the Agip host community, The ONELGA Chairman stressed “If you go to that Obagi, one will not believe that such economic resources are being collected from such a community. Their lives are so backwards, the locals were crying. I went there because it was an emergency, I didn’t go with anything. As of yesterday (Friday), I am in contact with the management of Agip and they intend to have a negotiation, but firstly, the issue is how to stop the leaking gas and we can discuss”.
One of the landlords of the affected area in Obagi, Anthony Brown, alleged that the leakages have been on because Agip on inception failed to do an environment impact assessment of the place before installing their pipelines. He lamented that the community has not benefited from Agip with their years of operation in the land, adding that the link roads leading to the pipeline sites were constructed by TotalEnergies and Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Brown who spoke when THISDAY and other media houses visited the scene of incident, explained “This is Udeta farmland. For over four decades, this place has been peaceful, nobody from our community have obstructed the activities of Agip. When Agip wanted to acquire this land, we told them to do an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of this area before they will acquire it, but they said we should not bother that they will take care of it.
“Since Agip started activities here, there have been series of problems from Agip flow station still in our land, but the company has not treated us like their landlord. The road we are using, which Agip is also accessing to come and drill oil here, was constructed by TotalEnergies.
“Agip has been so backward in their relationship with the community. Obagi is a very peaceful place. Nobody is doing much anything illegal oil refining activities here, we don’t even encourage it. But I have never seen any visible project that Agip built for our community right from when they started operating till date. Even the MOU we have with them has not been reviewed for the past 15 years till date.”
He however, urged “the federal, the state and local government to call Agip to order, if not for the grace of God, if this fire had continued for two days more, it could have burned down the whole community. There should be a proper EIA before Agip could continue and they should compensate us for all the damages on our land, aquatic lives and so many other losses”.
On his part, the Community Development Committee (CDC) Chairman of Obagi, Elechi Ifeanyi disclosed eruption on the Agip pipeline started on June 10, 2023, alleged that the company on earlier contact, denied it was their facility. He also defended that Obagi youths do not indulged in illegal oil refining activities.
“Since June last year, it has been eight months since this eruption has been here. We wrote to them and TotalEnergies, NLNG but Agip denied it was their facility. Obagi has been known as a peaceful place. Our youths are not indulged in bunkering business. The operation of Agip in Obagi, they have not been good in community relations. You cannot see the presence of Agip in the Obagi community. Same incident happened in 2010 but till today, Agip has not done anything to remedy what the people have suffered”, the CDC Chairman claimed.
To Destiny, a community member, lamented that the Agip is allegedly flaring gas and degrading the environment with its activities without remorse.
He said “Obagi happened to be the second community that oil was discovered in Nigeria after Oloibiri, but since then nothing to show for our contribution to the national treasury. Agip is virtually killing the community. Several occasions we have reported issues of havoc Agip is committing to the people of Obagi: gas flaring, explosion etc. It has become a norm of Agip to destroy our environment without remorse.
“Obagi is really in a pitiable condition. The issue of the gas eruption and explosion that happened two days ago started eight months ago. I personally have reported this issue to many authorities but none of them listened to us until the issue escalated. That night we didn’t sleep, there was thick smoke, fire gushing out from our farmland, but to God be the glory we are all alive today to tell the story”.
As at the time of this report, the management of Agip was yet to release a statement or made comment on the incident. At the incident scene, THISDAY witnessed over seven vans fully occupied with military personnel and with an alleged directives to prevent people access to the area. But after several confrontation from the community who lamented that the company cannot destroy and denied them access to their farmlands, the personnel withdrew after they received call from the company.
Just as the explosion in Obagi was still trending, there was a reported oil spill on a pipeline belonging to Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) Ltd. in Rivers State.
According to the Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC-Nigeria), the spill occurred on Friday, January 19, 2024, on the Obolo-Ogale, (close to Ebubu Community) Shell’s pipeline right of way.
The advocacy group in a statement yesterday, revealed that Shell was on the pipeline in December 2023 carrying out some maintenance work to change some old pipes laid over six decades ago, and along the way, their excavators may have punctured some pipes unknowingly to them as the pipeline was shut down from crude oil transportation during the period of the maintenance work.
The Executive Directive of YEAC-Nigeria, Fyneface Dumnamene, in the statement he personally signed expressed the believe that “the maintenance work has been completed successfully, Shell, on Friday, January 19, three days after it announced the agreed sale of its onshore facilities in Nigeria to Renaissance for over $1.3 billion, commenced the transportation of crude oil through the pipeline, leading to leakage and massive crude oil spill into the environment”.
Fyneface said “From photographs sent to YEAC-Nigeria showing the spill point and heap of sand, the evacuated points were yet to be covered, and crude oil was noticed oozing and pumping out of the pipeline under the ground uncontrollably till the time of this report as also seen in the videos shared.
“It is important to note that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) found benzene, a cancer-causing agent, 900 times above the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended standard in underground water in Nsisioken-Ogale due to underground crude oil spills, as published on August 4, 2011 by UNEP in the Ogoni Environmental Assessment Report currently being implemented by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP).
“SPDC is also currently in court in the UK with Ogale over multiple crude oil spills in the community, with more pollution still taking place like this”.
The advocacy centre however, called on the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) to immediately carry out a joint investigation visit (JIV) to the site in Ogale, determine the cause of the spillage, and invoke relevant sections of the Petroleum Industry Action (2021) to ensure that the community and its people are paid adequate compensation and the spill is cleaned up with a view to restoring the environment before the exit of SPDC.
Some of these equipment have lasted more than 30-40 years and this calls for removal, repair or replacement of those pipelines. The women suffer a lot of this degradation. So the federal government and the International Oil Companies should ensure that their pipelines and facilities are up to date. If there are ones that have spanned for so long, they should be replaced