Some concerned stakeholders on the environment are criticising the procedures adopted in the investigations to unravel the cause of last November 5 oil spill at Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29 in Nembe, Bayelsa State.
The regulatory agencies investigating the oil spill incident on Thursday attributed the spillage to sabotage whereas the Bayelsa government and impacted communities say the leak was caused by equipment failure.
A renowned environmentalist, Nnimmo Bassey, in a reaction to the development said the approach adopted in the investigation was not objective.
Bassey, who holds national honours of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic for environmental activism said that it was wrong for the oil firm to unilaterally repair the failed wellhead before the investigation.
He said that repair work on the leaking well head had tampered with the evidence and isolated the leaking point from examination by independent bodies.
“I am totally ashamed of the regulators over their position on the OML29, well 1 incident. judging from their submissions three pertinent issues arise:
“They based their sabotage argument on what Aiteo’s contractor told them, not on what they observed.
“The above happened because Aiteo and their team had already tampered with the evidence.
“It is inconceivable that a person would unscrew valves on two ends of the well head considering the pressure from the well as documented in many videos.
“That well head requires an independent assessment because the drama around it has corroded all social capital of the persons and entities involved,” Bassey said.
Also, Prof Richard Steiner, an Oil Spill Expert and Technical Advisor to Ijaw Diaspora Council (IDC) said that there was a need to have the wellhead subjected to forensic engineering evaluation by independent parties.
“As I have noted before, for any such conclusion to be trusted, it must be independently assessed and confirmed.
“To my knowledge, this has yet to occur.
“As you may recall, I urged that the wellhead infrastructure be preserved in an iron-clad chain-of-custody evidentiary procedure to permit such a conclusive assessment, but this apparently was not done either.
“In the interest of the public, I again encourage you to submit all evidence to independent technical assessment, so that all can trust the conclusion.
“Regardless of the cause of the Nembe spill, Aiteo and the federal government have a duty of care to ensure all oil infrastructure in the Niger Delta is operated safely and securely, by international best practice standards.
“There are many monitoring and community engagement methodologies that industry and government can employ to ensure such security, but have yet to do so,” . Steiner said.
The IDC further said that given the present circumstance, the Ijaw group believes that the operator of the oilfield should take responsibility for the pollution caused by the spill incident.
The leak which was reported on Nov. 5 was plugged on Dec. 8, while 16,280 barrels of crude and crude sediments were recovered from the incident site.