Bayelsa govt, NOSDRA visit Chevron spill site, launch lab investigations

Officials of the Bayelsa State government have led some environmentalists and officials of the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Ministry of Environment and National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) to the site of last week’s crude oil spill that polluted water and farm lands in Koluama community in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state.

According to the officials of the state government, the visit was to assure the impacted communities of government’s efforts to ascertain the source of the spill, extent of the spillage and damage on the livelihoods of the people of the area.

It was learnt that the crude oil spill that occurred on January 16 took place near Funiwa offshore facilities off the Atlantic coast, and also affected neighbouring communities.

The Senior Special Assistant to the Bayelsa State Governor on Oil and Gas, Chief Timi Seimiebo, who led the team on the visit, urged the agitated people of the Koluama community to remain calm and that samples taken from the site of the spillage would be sent for laboratory analysis to determine the identity of the oil exploration company responsible for the spillage.

Seimiebo said, “Once the samples have been tested and the identity of the company known, we will ask them to stand up to their responsibility as an oil company.”

Also speaking, an environmentalist and head of field operations, Environment Right Action, Alagoa Morris, explained that though the visit was not the statutory Joint Investigative Visit (JIV), the trip was a fact finding mission to assess the level of impact on the people and environment.

“The visit was an assessment trip to see things and suggest the way forward given the fact that no oil company has owned up, it cannot be a JIV because no oil company was represented. So, we shall submit an interim report to guide further action,” Morris said.

In his remarks, the youth president of Koluama 1, Mr Kiwei Emmanuel, said the regulators, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), took samples from the sediments at the coastline for laboratory tests to trace the source of pollution.

He added that members of the team also saw heaps of fishing nets, fishing gear and accessories destroyed by the oil leak, and traced the spread of the crude on the coast into the creeks and mangrove vegetation.

It will be recalled that the controversial oil spillage which occurred recently in the Koluama community, has triggered controversy following the statement by Chevron Oil company that they were not responsible for the spillage as earlier claimed by the indigenes of the community.

While Chevron Oil Limited owns Funiwa oil platform, the Conoil Limited is the owner of Auntie Julie oil platform in the area.

Nigerian Tribune gathered that the massive oil spillage, which had further spread across over seven kilometres, since it occurred on January 16, had affected the aquatic life of the people of the area with dead and rotten fishes being washed ashore and livelihood of the Koluama indigenes, which is predominantly fishing, halted.

The Chairman of the KEFFES Rural Development Foundation, Mr. Mathew Sele-epri, who also confirmed the development, said he was alerted around 6:00 p.m. on that day about the spillage and he called the major operators in the area, but the source of the spillage was not immediately confirmed.

“As of the time of taking a boat ride on the affected parts of the waters, dead fishes were noticed floating on the shoreline of the sea. And I noticed that the ecosystem is being damaged and aquatic life of the people grossly affected.”

Some elders of Koluama community, including Chief Young Goli and Chief Anderson Bolubo confirmed the oil spillage, urging the relevant agencies to compel oil company responsible to immediately start mopping up activities by sending relief materials and medical supplies to the people of the area.

Chief Bolubo expressed concern that the agitated youths of the community were threatening to shut down exploration activities of oil companies in the area if immediate remediation is not started.

Chief Goli added though past interaction between the community and oil companies had not yielded positive actions, pleaded with the oil company concerned “to come and talk to the community. We don’t want mediators.”

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