Fishermen, operating on the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean near Bayelsa State, have reported an oil leakage from the Funiwa oilfield operated by Chevron Nigeria (CNL).
Some fishermen from Koluama in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa raised the alarm in a chat with newsmen on Sunday, January 17, 2021 in Yenagoa, the state capital.
The fishermen, who operate on shallow waters near the ocean, said they noticed that crude was on the waters near the oil facility as helicopters were seen overflying the area.
Tombra Ebitimi, a fisherman from the coastal settlement, said that he observed the incident on Saturday night and subsequently reported the same to the community leadership.
He said that apart from helicopters sighted around the area possibly for assessment, meaningful response efforts had yet to begin.
“Some of us, who went on fishing, sailed into the oil-contaminated area near the Funiwa oilfield got our nets and fishing gear soaked with crude on Saturday.
“But we noticed some helicopters hovering around the facility by today,’’ he said.
Ebitimi said it could be that community leaders have informed the company of the development, which made them deployed helicopters in the area.
He appealed to the company not to apply toxic chemicals from the sky to dissolve the crude oil, saying, “Those chemicals are unfriendly to fishes and marine life generally.’’
He said that fishermen in the area had temporarily suspended fishing to avoid catching contaminated fishes that could jeopardise public health.
Confirming the development, one Chief Young Fabby told the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) that the spill occured in the early hours of Saturday.
Another source, Chief Festus Ileberi from Koluama 1 and resides in Yenagoa, said: “The spill is all over the shores of our communities. The rivers and creeks are polluted. We have already informed the Ibenanawei for further actions.”
In a statement made available to EnviroNews by ERA/FoEN’s Head of Bayelsa Office, Alagoa Morris, the organisation submitted: “The Funiwa facility is one of the fields in OML86, located about six miles (10 kilometres) offshore; the crude oil spewing from the facility into the environment has continued to spread unabated.
“If nothing is done, the spill will affect several fishing communities along the Atlantic coastline in Brass, Southern Ijaw, Ekeremor local government areas of Bayelsa and maybe, beyond.
“In 1980/81, there was a major oil spill from this particular oil facility operated by Chevron/Texaco. This means Chevron should be responsible for this incident and should rise to the occasion immediately to stop the leak and prevent widespread pollution of the marine ecosystem.
“It is important that the regulators swing into action, to ensure the right steps and actions are taken by the facility owners or oil industry operator.
“Other communities likely to be affected include: Fishtown, Sangana, Koluama 2, Foropah, Ekeni, Ezetu, and Bilabiri.
“ERA/FoEN’s acting executive director, Chima Williams, calls on Chevron and the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to swing into action, capping the spill and cleaning up the polluted areas immediately.
“To ensure transparency in the process, ERA/FoEN demands a joint investigative visit to the site to ascertain its cause and those responsible.”