The Governor of Bayelsa State, Douye Diri, has described the oil spill incident in the Nembe Local Government Area of the state as the worst he has seen in his life.
Diri said this on Wednesday after he visited the impacted site of the leak which occurred on November 1 around OML 29 Wellhead One in the Santa Barbra oilfield operated by the Aiteo Exploration and Production Company Limited.
He was accompanied by lawmakers, including the member representing Sagbama/Ekeremor Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Fred Agbedi, Speaker of the Bayelsa House of Assembly and Abraham Ingobere, and other top government dignitaries.
The spill has been discharging crude oil into the marine environment as Aiteo lamented the inability of a team of Joint Investigation Visit to access the facility and stop the leaking point due to high-pressure effusion, polluting the marine ecosystem for about four weeks.
The governor in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Daniel Alabrah, said that the continuous spillage has further endangered the lives of the people of Nembe, Bayelsa and indeed the Niger Delta.
Diri, who was out of the country when the incident happened, expressed shock over the quantity of crude oil that had been spilt into the environment and called on the Federal Government and operators of the oil field to immediately take action to stop it.
According to him, the prolonged oil spill into the water and air has an immediate and long term effect on the health of the inhabitants.
While assuring the people that appropriate measures would be taken to seek redress, he noted that the quest by oil firms to make money would not be at the expense of the lives of the people.
He expressed sympathy with the Nembe people, whom he said have lost their means of livelihood due to the spill while appreciating them for their peaceful disposition.
Diri said, “Today happens to be a very dark day for me. What we have seen, I believe, is worse than what happened in the Gulf of Mexico. In all my life, I have not seen such a magnitude of oil spillage.
“Our people are endangered. Our people’s source of livelihood is endangered. I empathise and sympathise with the people of Nembe on behalf of the government and the people of Bayelsa State.
“I like to give you hope that we will stand shoulder to shoulder with you. Our government will activate every constitutional means to arrest and redress this magnitude of the oil spill.
He continued, “I, therefore, call on the Federal Government, the operators of the oil field, NNPC and AITEO to immediately look for superior technical know-how to contain and stop the spread of the oil.
“For Bayelsa, the only thing we know how to do best is fishing. Today, our fishing route is endangered. I equally call on the Federal Government to immediately react and ensure that our fishing route is safe.”
He also decried the exclusion of indigenes of host communities in the running of the oil industry, saying that if indigenes were part of the operations of the oil field, they would have looked for ways to address the problem.
To ameliorate the suffering of the people, the governor has directed the State Emergency Management Agency and Ministry of Health to immediately provide relief materials and healthcare services to the people.
The chairman of Nembe Local Government Area, West Alalibo, and member representing Nembe Constituency 2 in the State House of Assembly, Edward Brigidi, appreciated the governor for embarking on an on-the-spot assessment visit to the site.
They revealed that the spill has caused water and environmental pollution, which is hazardous to the health of the people.
Also speaking, the chairman of the Opu-Nembe Council of Chiefs, Ekpeleyai Oruwari, appealed to the government and the operators of the oil well to stop the oil from spilling into their environment.
He appealed for the provision of relief materials to ameliorate their plight.