Environmentalists, Activists, Community Leaders Denied Access to Nembe Spill site
By Kenechukwu Obiajuru, Yenagoa
Civil society organisations, community leaders and Niger Delta activists have lamented the denial of access to the Nembe oil spill site within the Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29 operated by Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production.
But the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency in its website stated that the restriction was a temporary one pending conclusion of a suspended joint investigation of the Nov 5 spill incident.
The organisations, including community leaders, were in the Santa Barbra River to confirm the capping of the leaking well, but were prevented by security operatives who cordoned off the area.
Aiteo had announced that the leak reported on Nov 5 has been plugged after more than one month of discharging oil and gas under high pressure into the environment.
The team included representatives of Environmental Right Action (ERA), Health of Health Foundation, Community Leaders from Nembe, Civil Liberties Organisation and some Niger Delta activists.
Executive director of ERA, Mr Chima Williams, who reacted to the development said that the control of the security apparatus, by the oil companies leaves much to be desired. He called for proper clean up of the Nembe crude oil spill, which said has affected the people negativity, as well as aquatic lives.
“The crude oil that they are still cleaning up still enters back to the same River that they are flushing it back to same river.
“There is no facility that is created to contain the same flushing dirty water that has sediment, which remain polluted. This is creating problems for those living in this environment, and the aquatic lives in the ecosystem,” he said.
Dr Nnimmo Bassey, executive director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, said the team was at the spill site to verify the news that the spill has been curtailed and assess the damage done to the environment.
“Our team came to see things for ourselves following information we got that the spill has been stopped, we thought that they will be willing to show to the world that the spill has been contained, but they barred us from the place.
“They kept our boats floating and tossed us around from one security houseboat to another and this was very embarrassing, and a sad development ,” Bassey said.
According to him, a conservative estimate of about 4000 of crude oil has been discharged into the ecosystem, which is not healthy for the inhabitants who depend on the water for fishing and domestic use.
Ms Ankio Briggs, a Niger Delta Activist, criticized the overbearing attitude of the oil firm and said that denying environmentalists access to the environment creates suspicion. She said that from the evidence before them as shown by withered vegetation, the magnitude and impact of the spill is huge.
She said that the generation on yet born will still feel the impact of oil spill, which has affected the people negatively.
A correspondent who accompanied the team learnt that the restriction of all activities near the well head including navigation by engine powered boat was a directive by regulatory agencies.