Ten Ijaw communities along the Escravos river in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State have petitioned the Delta State government alleging that a massive crude oil spill is ravaging their environment from a Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, facility.
Representatives of the communities in a save-our soul letter to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State on Wednesday accused the state oil firm of negligence over the incident.
The representatives told journalists in Warri that the spill, which occurred on August 17, 2016, was traced to a crude oil trunk line from the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), the products marketing and distribution subsidiary of the NNPC.
They said the pipeline passes through the affected communities, namely Tebujor/Okpele-Ama, Ikpokpo, Okerenkoko-Gbene, Opuedebubor, Opuede, Opuendezion, Atanba, Oto-Gbene, Meke-Ama Communities in Gbaramatu Kingdom, along the Escravos river in Warri South West Local Government Area of the state.
The communities accused the PPMC of not carrying out a proper joint investigation of the incident by a properly constituted team comprising representatives of the community, NNPC, Department of Petroleum Resources and the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA.
“Instead, PPMC brought in military men to chase away villagers without carrying out a proper joint investigation of the incident to identify and stop the source of the spill as well as carry out effective remediation and compensate to the affected communities and people,” the communities said in a letter to Mr. Akowa.
The letter dated September 6, 2016, was signed by Yebrade Moses, Godwin Akori, Ebilowei Tortor and Braye Fredrick on behalf of the affected communities.
The communities lamented the NNPC and PPMC’s failure to take steps to stop the spillage and the damage to fishing nets, properties of the people and the environment.
“Villagers who rely on fishing along the river for survival can longer do so as a result of the effects of the oil spillage which has polluted the entire area,” they said.
Similar incidents, they said, have occurred on the same PPMC trunk-line on three occasions this year: in January, April and May, due to equipment failure.
They appealed to the state governor to prevail on the PPMC to carry-out a proper investigation of the incident, stop further spill, take steps to remediate the environment and pay compensation to the affected people and communities.
They also asked for relief materials to be sent to the communities to cushion the immediate effect of the spillage on the people to save them from starvation.
But the NNPC spokesperson, Garba Deen Mohammed, said what happened was not an oil spill, but a leakage from one of the products tanks following a burst pipeline from the PPMC facility in the area.
Mr. Mohammed said immediately the incident occurred, the relevant personnel were mobilized to contain the leakage without any casualty and damage to the environment.
“The incident was not as a result of an attack. It was a mechanical fault that resulted in a burst in one of the tanks,” he said. “Since the leakage has since been stopped, the incident has been reported to the relevant agencies, while a proper investigation is ongoing.”