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Environmentalists, community leaders decry denial of access to Nembe spill site

Some civil society organisations have bemoaned the denial of access to the Nembe oil spill site within the Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29 operated by Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production.

Oil spill site
Oil spill site

The oil firm had on Thursday, December 9, 2021 announced that the leak reported on Nov. 5, was plugged after more than one month of discharging oil and gas under high pressure into the environment.

The organisations, including community leaders, were in the Santa Barbra River during the weekend to confirm the capping of the leaking well, but were prevented by security operatives who cordoned off the area.

The team included representatives of Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Community Leaders from Nembe, Civil Liberties Organisation and some Niger Delta activist. 

Executive Director of ERA, Mr Chima Williams, who reacted to the development, said that the control of the security apparatus by the oil companies left much to be desired.

He called for proper clean up of the Nembe crude oil spill which, he said, has affected the people negatively, as well as aquatic lives.

“The crude oil that they are still cleaning up still enters back to the same river that they are flushing.

“There is no facility that is created to contain the same flushing dirty water that has sediment, which remain polluted.

“This is creating problems for those living in this environment, and the aquatic lives in the ecosystem,” he said.

Dr Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, said the team was at the spill site to verify the news that the spill was curtailed and assess the damage done to the environment.

“Our team came to see things for ourselves following information we got that the spill has been stopped.

“We thought that they will be willing to show to the world that the spill has been contained, but they barred us from the place.

“They kept our boats floating and tossed us around from one security houseboat to another and this was very embarrassing and a sad development,” Bassey said.

He alleged that a conservative estimate of about 4,000 barrels of crude oil was discharged into the ecosystem, which is not healthy for the inhabitants who depended on the water for fishing and domestic use.

Miss Ankio Briggs, a Niger Delta activist, critised the overbearing attitude of the oil firm and said that denying environmentalists access to the environment createed suspicion.

She said that from the evidence before them as shown by withered vegetation, “the magnitude and impact of the spill is huge.”

She said that the generation yet unborn would still feel the impact of oil spill, which had affected the people negatively. 

It was gathered that the restriction of all activities near the well head including navigation by engine powered boat was a directive by regulatory agencies.

The National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency in its website stated that the restriction was a temporary one pending conclusion of a suspended joint investigation of the Nov. 5, spill incident.

By Frank Shedrack

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