By Nathan Nwakamma
The community leadership in Nembe, Bayelsa, on Sunday urged the oil and gas industry regulators to wield the big stick against Aiteo Exploration Ltd over alleged poor handing of an explosion within OML 29.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that an explosion had occurred on Friday along the 97 kilometre Nembe Creek Trunk line, discharging unascertained volume of crude and gas into the environment.
Although Aiteo officials confirmed the incident on Saturday, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) insisted that there was no record of explosion in Nembe.
Chief Nengi James-Eriworio, Spokesman, Nembe Chiefs Council, said that the NNPC was misled because Aiteo did not report the incident to Joint Venture partners as required by law.
James-Eriworio said that the Nembe communities were shocked at the statement from NNPC and urged the corporation to sanction Aiteo for concealing the incident.
He said that the failure to report the incident had caused the entire oil industry an avoidable embarrassment.
“Nembe Chiefs Council calls on NNPC to sanction Aiteo Company for concealing a high level of leakage and a gas explosion at their facility at Nembe Creek.
“It is an offence by law for an Oil Producing Company not to report such incident to NOSDRA and other relevant agencies for verification and necessary action.
“As a Community (Kingdom), we will not take it kindly for exposing our indigenes to environmental and health danger.
“We will not hesitate to call for the revocation of Aiteo licence.
“What happened at Nembe Creek near Well Seven is unacceptable and seen as a gross abuse of environmental rules and regulations.
“We urge the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and others to visit the site of the incident for confirmation and for the record,” James-Eriworio said.
Aiteo officials said that the resulting fire from the explosion which burned till Saturday, had been put out and no loss of life was recorded.
The incident on NCTL, with a capacity of conveying 150, 000 barrels of crude daily to the Bonny oil export terminal, will adversely affect crude export, having been put out of use.
The Public Relations Manager of Aiteo, Mr Ndiana-Abasi Mathew, had confirmed the incident to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday.
“There is no official statement at the moment but I can gladly inform you that the fire has been contained and no lives were lost,” Mathew said.
NAN reports that the oil export line was shut for emergency repairs, following a leak when the incident occurred and discharged residual crude and gas trapped in the pipeline.
Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in 2015, divested its equity in OML 29 and transferred its interest in NCTL for $1.7 billion to Aiteo, an indigenous Oil and Gas Exploration and Production firm.
Community sources at Nembe have bemoaned negative impact of the explosion, saying that the incident led to both gas leakage and oil spill compelling them to flee.
An official of NOSDRA, Mr Francis Ume, said that that the agency was yet to be notified of the incident by the operator of the oilfield where the incident occurred.
Ume, who heads the Bayelsa Office of NOSDRA, said that plans had reached advanced stage to visit the site for assessment. (NAN)