The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has called on Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) to replace the Riser 15a section of the 21’’ pipeline in Ogoda/Brass in Bayelsa State, which is said to be the source of repeated oil spills polluting Fantuo/Egenkiri and neighboring communities since 2019. The most recent oil spill occurred on Sunday, July 2, 2023.
ERA/FoEN made the call following a “Save Our Souls” call from the people of Fantuo about a serious oil spill at an Agip pipeline located at Egenkiri, near Fantuo. Accompanied by the Community Development Chairman (CDC) of Fantuo community, ERA/ FoEN and a team of media representatives visited the site of the oil spill at the Egenkiri 3 and 4 fishing settlements where Agip’s Riser 15a is situated in the middle of a creek, which appeared to be the company’s Right Of Way (ROW), in Fantuo territory.
Egenkiri 3 and 4 are two fishing settlements situated within the same environment separated by the Creek and the oil facility is located in the middle. These two fishing camps have an estimated population of 150 persons. Fisher folks in the camps are not only from the Nembe (Ijaw) ethnic group, but other Ijaws from Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, Ogoni in Rivers State and some from Akwa Ibom State. Fantuo community is administratively in Nembe local government area of Bayelsa State.
The incessant oil spills around the area have disrupted fishing activities around the fishing camps, depriving the people of their source of livelihood, coupled with the health and environmental consequences of such repeated spills, endangering the existence of the fisher folks.
Speaking on the incident, Youth President of the fishing settlement, Godman Inimi, lamented the unending suffering that the people of Egenkiri have suffered due to the numerous oil spillages around the area.
”The (crude) oil has polluted the rivers and made fishing less productive. Due to the prevailing situation we hardly make ends meet and hence Agip should come to our aid by giving us relief materials and compensate us (for losses). We can’t even sleep well at night when the wind brings the pungent smell of the crude oil. It is very disturbing, health wise,“ said Inimi.
Also speaking on the issue, a resident of the community, Barida Nimbofa (an Ogoni lady), while responding to questions on the incident said the people are having severe health challenges due to the chemical particles in the waters and air space of the community.
“I am staying here at the Pipeline 3 fishing camp. This crude oil spill, its odour is worrying us. The spill has destroyed our fishing materials; our nets. We see dead fishes floating as a result of the crude oil and, this has chased away fish from the environment. Our fishing activities are now very unproductive. So it is difficult to survive. The government should come and assist us. The crude oil has also affected our source of drinking water and bathing. Our children are also having health challenging because of this crude oil spill. Government should come and take care of our health, by bringing medicine for us,” said Nimbofa.
Giving a brief history of the spill incidents from the facility, the CDC Chairman of Fantuo community, Micah Wakama Oruwori, revealed that the oil spills from the Riser 15a have been a regular occurrence since it first started in 2019.
‘’This oil spill from Agip’s Riser 15a first occurred in June 2019. After that spill they (Agip) built a cofferdam in 2019. The spill has since then become a regular occurrence, happening every four or six months and attracting the company for maintenance work. This recent one just occurred on July 2, 2023. And they brought this boom on July 8, 2023.“
While responding to questions on the reaction of Agip to previous spill incidents, the CDC Chairman said: “Anytime it (the spill) occurs, they give us relief materials (cash of N1.2 million to each of the affected settlements) and they normally come for maintenance. But it does not take as long as six months before another oil spill occurs. After the maintenance it would still occur because the pipeline is overdue for replacement.
“Agip built this first cofferdam in 2019 and, because it was not effective, a second one was built around the first one in March this year (2023). They laid this 21-inch pipe over 50 years ago; since 1971. Agip said this is a national trunk line and it is when they get approval from the Federal Government that they can effect replacement of the pipe. That was what they told us. It is the main Delivery Trunk Line to Brass Terminal.”
The CDC Chairman called on Agip to provide relief materials for the victims and people impacted by the spill, and to also and pay compensations to Fantuo community and all satellite communities.
The Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Chima Williams, said that crude oil is toxic and spewing it into the environment inhabited by people will expose them to the poisons.
“Agip is ultimately responsible for this destruction of the marine ecosystem and livelihoods of the locals. It must be compelled to clean up the spill and the damages it has caused them. This must not happen again,” he said.
According to Williams, the unattended reoccurring spills is a deliberate criminal act against the environment and people, considering the negative implications to marine life and the food chain in terms of livelihood and human health.
Williams called on Agip to immediately carry out effective repairs of the leaking section of the Riser 15a of the company’s 21″ Ogoda/ Brass Pipeline for the health and safety of the fisherfolks. He further charged the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) to prevail on NAOC by ensuring effective repairs or sectional replacement on the Riser 15a.
Williams also called on the Bayelsa State Government and the State Ministry of Environment to consider this incident as a matter of utmost importance, and to take all necessary actions to ensure NAOC stops the environmental terrorism practiced in Bayelsa State, as such cannot be acceptable in Italy.
He admonished all stakeholders, including the media, environmental groups, and legal practitioners to step in and take action in defense of the environment, livelihood and health of the people.