Residents of Lasukugbene, a community in Southern Ijaw area of Bayelsa State, south-south Nigeria woke up on the 3rd of February 2022 to an unexpected discovery – an oil spill flowing from burst pipelines belonging to Eni, parent company of Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC).
Lasukugnene, a predominantly fishing community, with very poor access health care facilities and basic social amenities, plays host to many pipelines and oil wells belonging to AGIP which has been operating in the community since 1974.
Investigations at the community as at 19th March 2022 indicate that a Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) to the community or spill site is yet to be carried out by relevant regulatory agencies.
Community leaders at Lasukugnene all lamented destruction of their rivers and lands by oil spills. The river, which is their only source of potable water and their crops have been contaminated by the oil spill.
Some community members described their ordeal and expressed sadness over Agip’s negligence and government’s failure to regulate the sector and to bring succor their way.
“Since morning I have been on the water for fish and all I could get is this small catch of fingerlings. My nets are all soaked with oil. I cannot use them again for fishing. We are calling on Agip and the government to come to our aid to stop the problem we are facing in the community,” lamented Betty, a community woman.
The community secretary, Mr. Valiant Jackson, revealed that the spill which was discovered on 3rd February 2022 had occurred over a month earlier.
“Yesterday, 18th March, Agip sent their team to clamp the erupted pipeline without informing the community leadership or contacting anyone from the community. When we saw them and approached them to find out what they were doing , Agip accepted that the spill was actually caused by equipment failure, saying that they were doing their best to ensure that the spill was contained,” Jackson said.
Jackson further averred that through out the years of operation of Agip in the community, the oil giant only provided a water tank for the community which is presently dysfunctional.
“We have no hospital, except for a small healthcare facility built by the local government. The equipment in the health centre was bought by the community and the only staff in the health center comes only once in a while, usually during statewide immunization campaigns,” Jackson added.
According to Josephine Tarilla, a community woman, “we are suffering. There are no standard healthcare facilities, water, school or light. We can no longer fish in our rivers, and the oil spill has destroyed all our fishing tools and nets. We call on Agip and the government to come to our aid.”
“We are suffering as a result of the oil spill from the Agip pipeline which passes through our community. We need help and relief materials to reduce our sufferings. Since the spill occurred, almost two months now, we observe that there are rashes all over our bodies when we use the water from the river to bathe. We do not have alternative source of water. The spill is killing us here!” she said.
Meanwhile, Cadmus Atake-Enade the Fossil Politics Project Lead at Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) during a visit to the community confirmed that “the spill blanketed the community’s river and swamps.
“It was an absolutely disheartening and scary sight. I wonder if there is hope for the common Niger Delta man. Communities in this region are suffering daily, there should be an immediate health and environmental audit of this place and the clean-up process should begin, Atake-Enade added.
It would be recalled that on 24th of February 2021, a similar spill occurred in Ogboibide community in Southern Ijaw where an Agip pipeline at OML63 had a gas leak and the company could only clamp the leakage site after several weeks.
According to a 2021 data published by NOSDRA, a government-run satellite tracker, a total of 30 oil companies in Nigeria spilt 41,216 barrels of crude Between January 2019 and May 18, 2021. The spill is equivalent to 6.5 million litres of oil (at 159 litres to a barrel). The spills occurred in 846 cases of oil spillages in less than three years.
The oil firms responsible for about 70 per cent of these cases include Shell Petroleum Development Company (with 331 spills), the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (196), Heritage Energy Operational Service Limited (40). These firms drill for oil in the Niger Delta region of the country and pay production entitlements, taxes, royalties and other remittances to the Nigerian government.