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Chevron, host community disagree over source of oil spill in Bayelsa

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(Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) and its host communities have disagreed over the source of leaks at its Funiwa Oil Fields off the Bayelsa shoreline.

Fishermen operating near the Atlantic Ocean coastline had on Sunday, reported an oil leak suspected to be from the Funiwa fields.

While the fishermen at Koluama in Southern Ijaw Council accused Chevron, management of the oil firm had denied the claims.

Reacting to the development, General Manager, Policy, Government and Public Affairs, at Chevron, Esimaje Brikinn, said in an email response that there was no oil leakage from its operations in Bayelsa.
“Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL), operator of the joint venture between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and CNL can confirm that there has been no oil spill incident at any of its facilities in Bayelsa State,” he said.

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But a leader in Koluama 1 Community, Chief Young Fabby, said in a telephone chat yesterday that Chevron’s denial was a mere ploy to evade liability for the leak and consequent pollution of the area.

He alleged that Chevron had deployed several helicopters to apply chemical dispersants to dissolve and breakdown the oil deposits on the water surface without the knowledge of stakeholders in a bid to cover up the spill.

“The oil company equally used the Navy and security personnel to ward off fishermen who tried to take photographs and video the exercise being carried out by helicopters”.

“If there was no leak, why did they deploy Naval personnel and soldiers to cordon off the area? He queried.

Another community leader, Matthew Sele-Epri, said there was ample evidence of oil spill adding that he personally went to the site to verify the claim.

He said that all the operators in the area had denied liability and that the community leadership would enlist the assistance of Bayelsa Ministry of Environment to determine the source.

When Contacted, Director General, National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Idris Musa, said that the agency would send its officials to the Funiwa field to ascertain the source and cause of the leak.

An indigenous oil firm, First Exploration and Production, operates Oil Mining Leases 83 and 85 acquired from Chevron following its divestment from some of its assets in the area where it still retained interests in some fields.

Conoil Producing Limited also operates at nearby oil blocks, but officials of both firms have yet to respond to requests for comments on the incident.

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