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Contrary to some reports in the media, oil company, Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company (AEEPCo) notified the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) of the fire at its oil well in Nembe, Bayelsa State on March 1, new evidence suggests.
On March 2, 2019, several national and international media outlets had erroneously reported that scores of people were missing after an explosion occurred along the Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL), the major crude oil pipeline traversing the Nembe area. Aiteo is the operator of the NCTL as well as the Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29.
Further details on the incident from the affected area as well as statements from Aiteo and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) have cleared that it was not a pipeline explosion but a fire at a nearby oil well. Also, Aiteo stated that there was no casualty from the incident. This was corroborated by community people who later confirmed that there were no missing individuals.
Fresh documents made available to newsmen indicate that Aiteo had contacted the relevant agencies, including NOSDRA on the matter within 24 hours as stipulated by law. A document referenced AEEPCo/PRD/2019/05 and signed by its Chief Operating Officer, Emmanuel Ukegbu reads:
“At the early hour of today 01/03/19, we received a report from the Mile 1 Community of a suspected explosion at Nembe Creek Well-7, following which, our Operation ER Team was triggered. Preliminary investigation suspects a possible explosion that resulted into fire at about 01.00 hours in the vicinity of Nembe Creek Well-7. By 01:30 hrs, the fire has tapered down.
“It is important to note that prior to this fire incident, all facilities were shut-in due to NCTL outage about 17.00 hrs on 28/02/19. We are continuing with investigations and further information will be communicated.”
On Monday, NOSDRA had accused Aiteo of frustrating efforts to investigate the incident. Francis Umeh, Head of NOSDRA’s Field Office in Bayelsa told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Yenagoa that the stance of the oil firm was slowing NOSDRA from promptly carrying out its mandate.
The NOSDRA field office boss also said Aiteo did not report the incidence within 24 hours of occurrence as stipulated by law.
“The incident occurred on Friday and it took them some time to report it officially to NOSDRA; we have plans to visit the site, but the operator is resisting and frustrating our efforts,” Umeh said.
NOSDRA’s assertions seem inconsistent with available evidence and definitely suggests either a communication gap within the organisation or an inexplainable fabrication.
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