BAYELSA OIL SPILLAGE: GROUP FROWNS AT NIGERIAN AGIP OIL COMPANY’S INSENSITIVITY TO PLIGHT OF HOST COMMUNITY

By Glory Edoni

Ikebiri Development Foundation (IDF), an umbrella elite group in Ikebiri Kingdom in Southern Ijaw local government area of Bayelsa state has expressed concerns over what it describes as insensitivity being displayed by Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NOAC) towards the plight of the people of the host communities with reference to a recent devastating oil spill in the reportedly caused by equipment failure.

Speaking with newsmen recently in Yenagoa, Chairman, Board of Trustees of the body,  Apostle Timiebi Kiyaramo regretted that since the major and devastating oil spill from Agip’s 10” Tebidaba/Clough Creek pipeline occurred in the first week of June, 2020, the company had not bothered to respond to the plight of the people, particularly women,  the elderly and children and other vulnerable groups whose source of livelihoods have been affected by the oil spill which the company also confirmed to be caused by its equipment failure.

According to him, the recent oil spill in Ikebiri Kingdom, has affected both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in the area, pointing out that the effects of environmental pollution caused by petroleum, has become a source of great concern to Kingdom because petroleum hydrocarbons are toxic to all forms of life, just as they could become harmful both to aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

He added that the recent oil spill in the  area has already contaminated marine habitats with serious  environmental consequences which the company was not bothered about due to their usual insensitivity towards their hosts in in the Niger Delta region where it has operated for several decades.

“Because marine oil spills can have serious negative economic impact on coastal activities, as well as on those who exploit the marine resources, communities in Ikebiri Kingdom are at risk of the likely consequences that come with oil disasters and therefore there is urgent need to anticipate these negative consequences and prepare for them not be caught unawares as a people.

“This is because of the serious impact of oil spills on marine life, as well as on people whose careers rely on the exploitation of these marine resources. Our people are predominantly farmers and fishermen and women. With the prevailing situation caused by this devastating oil spill, our farmlands and fishing activities have been seriously affected without any remedy in sight.

“Additionally, marine life will be affected even during clean-up operations apart from the physical damage to the habitats in which plants and animals live in.

“Petroleum marine fuel spills, which result from damage of equipment like the present case, caused equipment failure and various other industrial and mining activities, are classified by experts as hazardous waste, often considered to be the most frequent organic pollutants of aquatic ecosystems.

“IDF therefore frowns at this obvious insensitive manner NAOC is handling the oil spill matter. We call on Nigerian Agip Oil Company quickly to assess the impact of the damage on economic activities of the affected communities and respond accordingly without further delay by sending relief materials along with a medical team and support the people with fishing gear and seedlings, while we patiently wait for the outcome of official roundtable negotiation over the unfortunate incident which was attributed to equipment failure”, the IDF board chairman said.

He recalled a sad incident where eight youths from Ikebiri Kingdom were shot dead on April 19, 1999, while they were on their way to attend a meeting with the then state commissioner of police in Yenagoa, by armed escorts accompanying an NAOC maintenance crew.

“We want to use this medium to call on National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment and all other relevant government agencies to prevail on the Nigerian Agip Oil Company to do the needful to forestall a crisis situation in the area”, Apostle Kiyaramo reiterated.

It would be recalled that Eni, is an integrated energy company, headquartered in Italy, with over 30.000 people in nearly 66 countries in the world. The company commenced activities in Nigeria in 1962, through a wholly owned subsidiary. At its commencement, Eni offered the Government of Nigeria the option of participating in its Nigerian operations in the event of a commercial discovery. It was the first International Oil and Gas Company operating in Nigeria to do so. This option was subsequently exercised by the Federal Government in 1973, setting the stage for the current Joint Venture (JV) arrangement in the industry.

The activities of Eni in Nigeria have grown over the years. This has led to its establishment of 2 other subsidiaries in the country, namely Agip Energy and Natural Resources (AENR), in 1980, and Nigerian Agip Exploration (NAE), in 1996, to concentrate on the company’s activities in the shallow water and deep offshore areas.