OML19: Aiteo Risks Losing License Over Oil Spill

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……Nigeria Senate call for stringent sanctions against erring oil firms

By Chibisi Ohakah, Abuja

Nigerian Senate has called on the federajNigerian government to penalize AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited, and possibly withdraw the license of the company, for being unable to manage the November 5 oil spill at Santa Barbara well 1, OML 29 operated by the company.

In his closing remarks during plenary yesterday, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, urged the President Muhammadu Buhari led executive, through the relevant government agencies, to penalise indigenous oil companies responsible for the devastation of host communities where they operate.

The Senate had considered a motion on “the extremely urgent need to stop the continuous crude oil and gas blow out spill at Santa Barbara well in OPU Nembe, Niger Delta, sponsored by Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo
Coming under order 42 and 52 of the Senate Rules, Senator Degi Eremienyo noted with concern the continuous gushing and spewing of oil and gas into the waterways and mangrove vegetation of Opu Nembe area of Bayelsa state from the non producing oil well 1, Santa Barbara OML 29 belonging to AITEO.

He asserted that whereas the same oil well had witnessed several oil spills in previous years, the current incident borders on catastrophe due to a long period of accumulated oil and maximum pressure from piled up gas in the well.

According to him, the magnitude of this incident is of an extremely high order, the first of its kind in this part of the world. The entire mangrove forests and aquatic life have been adversely affected by this methane gas, as rainbow-like sheens are seen on the water body around the point of incident down to the shoreline, he argued.

He highlighted further that dead fishes are now floating within the impacted area, with fishing activities totally crippled. “Aware that during the just concluded global Climate Conference (COP26) held in Glasgow, Scotland, world leaders gathered to encourage nations to implement international best practices in cutting off such emissions into the entire ecosystem.

According to the Senate, while the policy on divestments by IOCS in exploration and production of oil and gas is a welcome development, as it creates space for indigenous companies to invest and grow in the industry, such opportunities should be accorded to only indigenous companies with proven requisite technical and financial competence.

The upper chamber noted with dismay that attempts to stop the continuous oil and gas spill by the operators had failed repeatedly for over one month running, wasting an estimated over 2 million barrels of hydrocarbon and gas.

“It shows a disappointing appearance of technical incompetence in handling the incident on the part of AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited,” the motion said.

The senator from Bayelsa East senatorial zone, urged the senate to note that the degree of incompetence is sufficient to attract sanctions such as revocation of their operational license by the regulatory authorities to instill sanity in the oil and gas sector in response to the increased global call for protection of the environment.

He said the Senate should note with deep concern the health hazard on the people of the host communities as the air and water have been contaminated, with the possibility of a fire outbreak from the oil well if this wanton release of oil and methane gas continues unstopped.

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