The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has called on Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) to replace a section of its pipeline in Ogoda/Brass in Bayelsa State that has continued to pollute Fantuo/Egenkiri and neighbouring communities with repeated oil spills since 2019. The most recent oil spill occurred on July 2, 2023.
ERA/FoEN made the call in a statement following a Save Our Souls message from the people of Fantuo about a serious oil spill at an Agip pipeline located at Egenkiri, near Fantuo.
Accompanied by the Community Development Chairman (CDC) of Fantuo community, ERA/FoEN and a team of media representatives visited the site of the oil spill at the Egenkiri 3 and 4 fishing settlements where Agip’s Riser 15a is situated in the middle of a creek, which appeared to be the company’s Right Of Way (ROW), in Fantuo territory.
Egenkiri 3 and 4 are two fishing settlements situated within the same environment separated by the creek and the oil facility is located in between. These two fishing camps have an estimated population of 150 persons. Fisher folks in the camps are not only from the Nembe (Ijaw) ethnic group, but other Ijaws from Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, Ogoni in Rivers State and some from Akwa Ibom State. Fantuo community is administratively in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
The incessant oil spills around the area have disrupted fishing activities around the fishing camps, depriving the people of their source of livelihood, coupled with the health and environmental consequences of such repeated spills, endangering the existence of the fisher folks.
Speaking on the incident, youth president of the fishing settlement, Godman Inimi, lamented the unending suffering of the people of Egenkiri due to the numerous oil spills around the area.
“The (crude) oil has polluted the rivers and made fishing less productive. Due to the prevailing situation, we hardly make ends meet. Hence, Agip should come to our aid by giving us relief materials and compensate us (for losses). We can’t even sleep well at night when the wind brings the pungent smell of the crude oil. It is very disturbing, health wise,” Inimi said.
Also speaking on the issue, a woman resident in the community, Barida Nimbofa, while responding to questions on the incident said the people were having severe health challenges due to the chemical particles in the waters and air space of the community.
“I am staying here at the Pipeline 3 fishing camp. This crude oil spill, its odour is worrying us. The spill has destroyed our fishing materials; our nets. We see dead fishes floating as a result of the crude oil and this has chased away fish from the environment. Our fishing activities are now very unproductive. So, it is difficult to survive.
“The government should come and assist us. The crude oil has also affected our source of drinking water and bathing. Our children are also having health challenging because of this crude oil spill. Government should come and take care of our health, by bringing medicine for us.”
Giving a brief history of the spill incidents from the facility, the chairman of Fantuo community, Micah Wakama Oruwori, revealed that the oil spills from the Riser 15a has been a regular occurrence since it first started in 2019.
“This oil spill from Agip’s Riser 15a first occurred in June, 2019. After that spill they (Agip) built a cofferdam in 2019. The spill has since then become a regular occurrence, happening every four or six months and attracting the company for maintenance work. This recent one just occurred on July 2, 2023. And they brought this boom on July 8, 2023.”
While responding to questions on the reaction of Agip to previous spill incidents, Oruwori said, “Anytime it (the spill) occurs, they give us relief materials (cash of N1.2 million to each of the affected settlements) and they normally come for maintenance. But it does not take as long as six months before another oil spill occurs. After the maintenance, it would still occur because the pipeline is overdue for replacement.
“Agip built this first cofferdam in 2019 and because it was not effective, a second one was built around the first one in March this year (2023). They laid this 21-inch pipe over 50 years ago; since 1971. Agip said this is a national trunk line and it is when they get approval from the Federal Government that they can effect replacement of the pipe. That was what they told us. It is the main Delivery Trunk Line to Brass Terminal.”
He called on Agip to provide relief materials for the victims and people impacted by the spill and to also and pay compensations to Fantuo community and all satellite communities.
The Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Chima Williams, said crude oil is toxic and spewing it into the environment inhabited by people will expose them to poisons.
“Agip is ultimately responsible for this destruction of the marine ecosystem and livelihoods of the locals. It must be compelled to clean up the spill and the damages it has caused them. This must not happen again,” Williams said.
According to him, the unattended reoccurring spills is a deliberate criminal act against the environment and people, considering the negative implications to marine life and the food chain in terms of livelihood and human health.
He said Agip should immediately carry out effective repairs of the leaking section of the pipeline for the health and safety of the community. He further charged the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) to prevail on NAOC by ensuring effective repairs or sectional replacement on the Riser 15a.
Williams also called on the Bayelsa State government and the State Ministry of Environment to “consider this incident as a matter of utmost importance and to take all necessary actions to ensure NAOC stops the environmental terrorism practiced in Bayelsa State, as such cannot be acceptable in Italy.”