The Ijaw Diaspora Council has asked Aiteo Exploration and Production Ltd to provide immediate, interim response funding of at least $500,000 for the affected Ijaw people, to be used to support their initial sustenance in response to the spill.
Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company, the operator of Oil Mining Lease 29, said in a statement that it had on November 5 reported a hydrocarbon wellhead leak in its Santa Barbara, Southwest field, in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
“This well, non-producing since Aiteo’s acquisition in 2015, was predominantly dormant, having been securely isolated since then,” it said, adding that an accurate cause of the leak had not been ascertained as it had been focused on containing the consequences of the incident.
The company said immediately upon noticing the leak, it notified all relevant regulatory agencies and thereafter mobilised containment resources to limit the impact on the environment.
An international oil spill advisor, Prof. Rick Steiner, who was appointed by the IDC as technical advisor, said in a statement, “After 15-20 days of continuous flow, the spill had already released a minimum of 150,000 barrels – 200,000 barrels of toxic hydrocarbons into the sensitive mangrove ecosystem in Nembe LGA, and possibly twice that much.”
The IDC, in a letter addressed to the Chief Executive Officer, Aiteo Group, Mr Benedict Peters, said the major wellhead blowout from the oil well appeared to have begun on November 2, 2021
The letter was signed by the council’s President, Prof. Mondy Gold; Director of Community Outreach, Dr Festus Odubo, and the Director of Conflict Resolution, Dr Brisibe Nabena.
It said, “From the evidence available, not limited to videos collected by local community members, it is estimated by international oil spill experts that the blowout has already spilled well over 100,000 barrels of toxic hydrocarbon fluids (methane and crude oil) into the productive coastal mangrove ecosystem.
“We note that this is indeed a major spill by any standards, and its effects are clearly catastrophic ecologically, economically, and socially in the coastal communities affected.”
Stating what it described as “specific urgent demands,” the council said Aiteo must immediately deploy sufficient oil spill containment and cleanup equipment and personnel to contain and collect as much of the spilled hydrocarbon pollutant as possible, as required by Nigeria law, and hire as many local community members as possible.
It said, “Aiteo must provide immediate, interim response funding directed by Aiteo to the affected Ijaw people of at least $500,000, to be used by the affected people to support their initial sustenance in response to the spill.
“This initial funding will in no way prejudice future claims for compensation for the spill and will allow local Ijaw people to purchase alternative food resources during the spill, as contaminated fish from the spill area cannot be consumed; purchase personal protective equipment; conduct overall response to this emergency; etc.”
IDC said Aiteo must agree to support and cooperate with a technical advisor for the Ijaw communities joining the official Joint Investigation Team.
It said the company must immediately commission an independent, scientific, environmental damage assessment by a credible, independent scientific institution.
The Commission Chief Executive, Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, Gbenga Komolafe, said it had directed the joint investigation team handling the exercise to “determine the cause of the spill and to convey the extent of impact and quantity of crude spilled.”
He said in a statement that the NUPRC would be implementing some action plans that would involve players in the sector, adding that Aiteo would activate an emergency environmental management plan.