Nembe oil spill: Stakeholders raise concerns over residents’ livelihood, safety, health 

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Some Ijaw Stakeholders in Lagos have described as unacceptable the failure of AITEO and government agencies in containing the OML 29 Oil and Gas Blowout at Nembe in Bayelsa.
The OML 29 Well 1 platform, which is operated by Nigeria’s largest indigenous oil firm, Aiteo Exploration and Production Company Limited, has been spilling crude unabated into the Santa Barbara River for about one month.
The Concerned Stakeholders expressed dissatisfaction in a statement on Friday jointly signed  by Pastor Efiye Bribena, Secretary, Ijaw Elders’ Furum in Lagos and six other stakeholders.
Others are Mr Ben Amaebi-Okoro, Chief Amagbe Kentebe, Ms Annkio Briggs, Mr Elaye Otrofanowei, Mr Iniruo Wills and Mrs Rosemary John-Oduone
“We the undersigned (as well as several other stakeholders) are seriously concerned with the yet-to-be-contained oil and gas blowout at Well #1 at the Santa Barbara River location, OML 29 at Opu Nembe in Bayelsa.
“It is quite disturbing that AITEO’s gushing well is yet to be ‘killed’ and capped after nearly one month since it started.
“This has caused severe damage to the surrounding environment and untold hardship on inhabitants of the nearby communities,” the stakeholders said.
The group said it had observed with dismay “the reckless response to this spill by national and subnational institutions and leaders within the region.”
According to them, the fact that the well is still gushing at this point in time is a pointer to the failure of responsible agencies and the leaders to protect the poor inhabitants of the communities.
They said that responsible agencies, leaders and politicians had continued to disregard protection of the inhabitants of the communities on whose land and geographical areas the crude oil or gas resources resides.
The group demanded urgent actions to address the danger to the livelihood, safety and health of the community people.
“The well should be killed and capped without further delay. NNPC Ltd and the international oil companies (IOCs) should collaborate with AITEO to kill the well in accordance with global best practice.
“We demand intervention by NEMA on the basis of the highest level of emergency, to provide relief material and medical attention to the poor inhabitants of the affected communities.
“There is the need to conduct assessment of health and safety needs, including epidemiology and fire vulnerability,” they added.
The group said that there was the need to mobilise the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs to the affected communities to cater for needs of any IDPs.
The stakeholders called on Nigerian and international donor, development and social aid bodies like UNDP, UNICEF, USAID, Red Cross, Caritas, Open Society Institute, MacArthur Foundation and others to come to the aid of the affected communities.
The group called for concerted efforts to prevent a reoccurrence of the ugly situation in the future and the consistent poor handling of pollution from oil spills.
The stakeholders recommended that an independent inquiry team of UN and NGO’s within and outside Bayelsa State should be setup to investigate the spill.
They said: “The regulatory and supervisory MDAs should ensure fair and transparent Joint Investigation Visits (JIVs) and post-spill impact assessments immediately after spills and similar incidents in a timely manner.
“They should ensure expert representation of affected communities to break from old habit of shoddy and lopsided JIVs and constant failure to conduct post spill impact assessment (PSIA).
“They should direct NNPC Ltd, NUPRC and the operating companies to immediately commission a region-wide decommissioning and abandonment programme for disused or orphaned sites in line with global best practice.”
The group called for establishment of a “UNEP-HYPREP” type independent and internationally credible environmental clean-up, remediation and restoration programme for the Niger Delta region.
The stakeholders added that that should also entail recertification of supposedly cleaned-up sites, in view of the certification scandal concerning some NOSDRA-certified “cleaned-up” sites in ongoing Ogoni Cleanup.
The group urged the Federal Government to make provision in the 2022  budget to establish the National Oil Spill Control and Response Centre as prescribed in the NOSDRA Act.
They called for Presidential assent to the NOSDRA Act Amendment Bill.
“NOSDRA should be adequately funded to make it independent and self-equipped. Also, its Head Office should be relocated to the region.
“There is also the need to set up a Community Expert Representation and Pollution Insurance Fund,” the stakeholders said.
They called on the Federal Government and NNPC to develop capacity to respond to massive well blowout in order to protect the poor inhabitants in the oil producing communities.
The group said that this had become imperative if the government must continue to appropriate the resources of the Niger-Delta.
“AITEO/NNPC Ltd must be more responsive and proactive in managing this terrible development,” the stakeholders said.