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Bayelsa communities lament impact of Aiteo pipeline explosion

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By our correspondent, Yenagoa

Residents along the 97-kilometer Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL) have bemoaned the adverse impact of Friday’s explosion on the crude export pipeline operated by Aiteo. It would be recalled that Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in 2015 divested its equity in OML 29 and transferred its interest in NCTL for $1.7 bn to Aiteo, an indigenous Oil and Gas Exploration and Production firm.

Communities sources at Nembe in Bayelsa said that the incident led to both gas leakage and oil spill compelling them to flee.

Spokesman of the Nembe Chiefs Council, Chief Nengi James–Eriworio, who confirmed the development, noted the explosion caused massive destruction of the area with air and water heavily polluted. “People have deserted the area and the company have refused to respond despite series of emergency calls to report the incident to them. As at early morning of Saturday, the fire is still raging. And with gas and crude leak flowing freely you can then imagine the fate of our people.

“The poor response of Aiteo to this incident is not acceptable and questionable. The people are traumatized and their health put at risk ” James-Eriworio said.

According to him, oil leak from the line had covered the surface of the nearby river, making it unsafe for navigation and artisanal fishing vocation of the people.

James-Eriworio also appealed to the federal government and oil industry regulatory agencies to intervene and investigate and respond to salvage the people.

“We are concerned that Aiteo, despite the clandestine acquisition of the asset from SPDC without due consultation with the people has continued to undermine the economic rights of the people.

“We are worried about the poor incident response and attitude of the company towards the host communities in Nembe. They have abused the rights of the people. We are ready to drag the company before the national assembly and the presidency,” James-Eriworio, said.

The explosion, which occurred at about 4am near Oil Well 7 on Friday, sacked indigenes of the affected communities and many are reported missing including women and children.

It was gathered that 150,000 barrels per day capacity oil export line was shut for emergency repairs following a breach when the incident occurred and discharged residual crude and gas trapped in the pipeline.

The Nembe communities affected include Nembe creek 1,2 and 3, Jalungo,Fatuo and Kalablomi in Nembe local government of Bayelsa.

When contacted, Mr Francis Umeh, Head, Bayelsa Operations, National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) confirmed the incident. He, however, said that although the operator of NCTL was yet to report the incident as required by law, NOSDRA was making plans to visit the site for an on-the-spot assessment.

Meanwhile, Aiteo officials said that the resulting fire from the explosion which burned till Saturday has been put out and no loss of life was recorded.

The incident on NCTL with a capacity of conveying 150,000 barrels of crude daily to the Bonny oil export terminal will adversely affect crude export haven been put out of use.

A Public Relations Manager of Aiteo, Mr Ndiana-Abasi Mathew said: “There is no official statement at the moment but I can gladly inform you that the fire has been contained and no lives were lost,” Mathew said

It will be recalled that Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in 2015 divested its equity in OML 29 and transferred its interest in NCTL for $1.7 bn to Aiteo, an indigenous Oil and Gas Exploration and Production firm.

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