NEDU MARK, Yenagoa
The Management of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) has commenced recovery of spilled crude that leaked from its Kolo Creek Manifold in Bayelsa rural communities.
Shell said the leak within its Kolo creek oil field operated in Bayelsa state rural communities discharged over 27 barrels of Shell’s crude blend into the environment on April 15, 2015.
A visit to the spill site on Tuesday showed that oil spill response was on site while oil recovery activities were ongoing at the Kolo Creek Manifold at Otuasega in Ogbia LGA.
The oil workers were seen mopping up oil with 20 liter plastic containers and pouring into large plastic tanks from where the crude is pumped into vacuum trucks and evacuated for re-processing.
Several pools where crude had collected were sighted within the oil fields while the vegetation in the area had wilted.
A Joint Investigative Visit (JIV) conducted by officials of SPDC, Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment, Community representatives and oil industry regulators on April 16, concluded that the spill was caused by sabotage.
“Report of the Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) at the Kolo Creek Manifold spill which occurred on April 15, 2015 has attributed the leak to sabotage of the facility.
“The investigation team, which visited the site on April 16, found that unknown persons had cut out a section of the metal protection to the manifold, removed components of the pressure control system and opened the isolation valves.
“It resulted to a spill. The volume of spilled oil was estimated at 27 barrels, affecting mainly the manifold grounds and part of the surrounding vegetation,” the statement said in part.
It was gathered that representatives of the community and officials of SPDC had held divergent views over the cause of the spill during the Joint Investigative Visit.
Mr. Olei Ako a renowned Otusega farmer whose plantain and banana plantations were affected said that the community feels that the sabotage was a fall out of negligence by surveillance staff of the oil firm.
Ako regretted that the JIV team did not reflect the extent of damage caused by the spill as his farm and many others were not captured in the damage assessment.
The farmer said that more than 50 farmers who had plantain/Banana plantations and fish ponds were excluded as the Joint Investigation team did not visit their farms impacted by the spill.
Hear Ako, “We are not accepting the theory of sabotage at all, that facility is a restricted area and well fortified, we believe that it is the responsibility of Shell to protect their facility and if they are negligent on this they should be held liable.
“Sabotage has to be defined, it cannot be used loosely to cover up the negligence of the oil firm, we do believe it is negligence and not sabotage.
“The spill had wrecked havoc and destroyed surrounding farmlands and plantain plantations in the community, we must resolve who bears responsibility for all these before clean up can start,” the source said.
Bayelsa Commissioner of Environment Mr Iniruo Wills visited the spill site before the JIV on April 15 with officials of the ministry and civil society organizations for an on–the-spot assessment.
Wills in a telephone interview said the state government believes that the incident was caused by operational failure and would insist that the oil firm takes responsibility for its negligence.
“The position of sabotage is a mere allegation that has not been proved in any single case, we shall insist on subjecting it to proof because such a facility is supposed to be a highly restricted and secured area.
“So for any unauthorized person to gain access to such a place questions the operational system put in place by the oil company and our conclusion is that this is an operational failure on their part, that is my position, said Wills.”