A Niger Delta group, the Ifalibobou Revolutionary Movement (IRM) has expressed safety concerns over the state of an oil rig deployed to oilfields at Koluama coastal communities in Bayelsa State.
The group issued an ultimatum to First Exploration and Petroleum Development Company (First E&P) to clarify the safety records of the rig within 72 hours to avoid a repeat of the 2012 rig disaster in the area.
It demanded that failure to show proof of integrity of the facility, the rig should leave the territorial waters of Bayelsa in Southern Ijaw and Brass Local Government Areas of Bayelsa.
First E&P, an indigenous oil firm in 2015 acquired Oil Mining Lease (OML) 83 and OML 85 oilfields when Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) divested its 40 per cent interests in the oil blocs to become its operator.
A rig blow out in January 2012 at Chevron’s oilfield in the area resulted to a fire that burnt out the KS Endeavor rig in 48 days.
The affected coastal areas are Koluama 1&2, Ekeni, Foropa, Fish Town, Ezetu and Sangana (KEFFES).
The leader of IRM, Joseph Sese in a statement in Yenagoa expressed sadness that the company began operations in the area without taking cognizance of the negative impact their operations would have on the host communities.
“We express our deepest concern over the sudden appearance of an oil drilling rig contracted by First Exploration and Petroleum Development Company in the Territorial waters of KEFFES host Communities in Southern Ijaw and Brass Local Government Areas of Bayelsa state.
“As aboriginal indigenes of the coast line and territorial watch dogs we are highly vexed by the manner of your voyage for oil exploratory activities in our offshore waters without any show of the integrity of the rig to the community.
“As the incident of 16th January, 2012 is still fresh in our memory except you jack-up your rig and leave our region within seventy two hours (72hrs) for the safety of your workers and equipment.
“We sincerely don’t want a repeat of the disastrous gas exploration that caused severe damage to our marine environment and the entire ecosystem of the KEFFES region.
“The way and manner your rig appeared in our territory is a sad remembrance of the way and manner the Rig, K.S. Endeavor came into our coast in an oil exploratory activities without an EIA Report and Contingency Plan as required by law.
“The end of it was a colossal damage to Human and Environmental Elements.
“It is imperative to state that your drilling operation will generate severe environmental impact such as Air and Water pollution, climate change, over exploitation of the marine ecosystem.
“It will yield major ecological and environmental stresses with irreversible loss of species, destruction of habitat and climate catastrophes.
“Your activities will impact not only the states and dynamics of natural resources and ecosystem but also alter human health, wellbeing, welfare and economic wealth since these resources are support fortunes to the human lives in the area”, the statement read in part.
According to the statement, the oil rig is stationed to drill the Ayala oil field, (OML83) with a potential reserve of 200 million barrels of oil equivalent.
Also, Madu oil field, (OML85), with potential of 140 million barrels of oil equivalent, including 45 percent gas deposits.
In a reaction, Mr Mathew Sele-Epri, Chairman KEFFES Rural Development Foundation described the threats as baseless and a ploy to seek attention adding that the community leadership was in a transparent relationship with First E&P.
Sele-Epri said that the allegations by Sese are false and unfounded as the company had established a mutually beneficial relationship with the KEFFES communities for over three years.