Data from the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) indicate that oil spills and pollution occur due to sabotage by oil thieves, pipeline vandals, equipment failure and operational accidents.
The data further showed that some 1,000 incidents of spillage were reported on a monthly basis from oil facilities across Bayelsa State alone.
According to Mrs. Ayibakuro Warder, a woman leader in Ikarama, an oil producing community in Yenagoa Local Government of Bayelsa, oil exploration has brought only pains to residents whom she claims suffer losses due to spills which destroy farm products.
Warder also expressed deep concern that oil-related pollution and gas flares cause damage to public health as the people of Ikarama record high incidence of respiratory diseases.
She recalled an oil spill incident about six years ago that ravaged a part of the community.
“Women are the worst affected by gas flare, and oil spills which we contend with almost on a daily basis. We notice dwindling fish catch due to spills that pollute the rivers, streams, ponds and swamps.
“As for our farms, when it is time to plant cassava, the yield is frustrating as a result of oil spills, there is a specie of cocoyam we used to have but research showed that it got extinct due to gas flare,” Warder said.
Speaking on a recent oil spill incident from an offshore facility in Bayelsa where several operators denied responsibility, Mr. Idris Musa, Director-General of NOSDRA decried the high rate of spills in the state.
According to Musa, the effect on the environment and ecology could sometimes take decades to remediate.
He said that the agency had consistently sensitised the oil communities on the inherent dangers.
“The rate of oil spills in Bayelsa is a cause of worry and we should ask ourselves if this type of things happens in other countries that produce crude.
“The oil fields in the entire Southern Ijaw swamps are very notorious for pipeline vandalism by oil thieves who steal crude for local refining and in the process pollute the environment.
“It is a very big challenge to our resources as regulators and each incident has to be investigated as majority of the spills are caused by vandals,’’ Musa said.
Also, NOSDRA and some environmentalists expressed concern over alleged environmental impact of Conoil Producing Limited’s operations in Bayelsa.
The concern was raised over the firm’s alleged insensitivity to the sustenance of the environment where it operated.
It was also raised over its alleged continued failure to appropriately respond to an undersea leak in its oil field pipeline in the state, since Sept. 3, 2020.
NOSDRA’ Director General, Musa, who confirmed the incident on Dec. 2, 2020, alleged that the company had operated in breach of regulatory guidelines.
Musa had alleged that the oil firm had the habit of causing avoidable spills and had previously been sanctioned for degrading the environment.
“This oil company has been spilling oil for a period of time now, from our findings, it is from an underwater pipeline under pressure creating bubbles on the water surface.
“All the directives given to it to contain the oil spill, shut down, and replace the leaking pipeline, near the shore in Sangana, Bayelsa, fell on deaf ears.
“The agency sanctioned the company for this untoward act, but nothing has changed. The leakage continues and the oil company behaves irresponsibly even though it is a Nigerian oil firm,” he alleged.
The leak emanated from Conoils’s facility known as “Aunty Julie platform” within Oil Mining Lease 59, at Otuo Oil field, it was gathered.
In Rivers, the State Ministry of Environment has urged the Federal Government to increase efforts in protecting crude oil pipeline’s right of way to check activities of vandals and also curb oil spillage in the state.
Mr Charles George, Head of Department, Inspectorate and Enforcement in the Ministry, said in Port Harcourt that the call was necessary since the oil and gas sector is exclusively regulated by the Federal Government.
Accordingly to George, all the 23 local governments areas in Rivers are either oil producing or hosts to oil facilities which makes all of them experience some level of oil spillage.
He however, noted that the level and extent of oil spillage related pollution is more in the coastal and riverine communities.
The environment expert also attributed oil spillage to equipment failure, operational error and sabotage, or third party interference.
“The impact of oil spillage is more in the aquatic environment because the river sediment has the bio-accumulation and bio-availability capacities.
“These make them remain polluted for several years as there are usually no remedial measures for cleanup of affected pollution sites,’’ he said.
George also revealed that all flow stations in the state still flare gas on daily basis.
He, however, added that the ministry had been enlightening the public on the negative impacts of pollution to humans, animals and the environment.
“We are also enlightening the public on the need to shun crude oil theft and also the need to protect pipeline’s right of way.
“The fact is that the oil industry is the major contributor to the Nigerian economy and the Federal Government is somehow lukewarm towards effective enforcement of standards for oil companies,” George alleged.
He said the state government had laws in place against environmental pollution by vehicles plying the roads.
“Part IV, Section 18, subsections 1a-d, section 20 subsections 2d, 3 and 4 of the state ‘Green Book’ are laws on vehicle pollution,” George said.
Similarly, Mr Fegalo Nsuke, President, Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), also confirmed that gas flaring had remained a major cause of air pollution in the Niger Delta region.
Mr Tammy Nkoti, a sewage waste manager, said that there were effective laws by the state against the menace of open defecation and urinating.
Nkoti noted that the level of compliance to these laws was considerably high in Rivers State.
By Razak Owolabi