Huge losses, as Ojumole oil well fire enters day 54
• Ondo Assembly, Chevron Parley
• Communities Accuse Outfit Of Short-changing Them, Govt., Demand Reparation
Fifty-one days after a fire outbreak at the Ojumole Oil Well 1 in Ugbo Kingdom, Ilaje Local Council of Ondo State, the operating company, Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) is still making efforts to extinguish the inferno, which has now spread to some communities along the Ondo coastline.
According to findings, the Ojumole Oil Well had been abandoned by Chevron since 1998 due to the historical internecine war between the Ilaje people and their Ijaw/Arogbo neighbours. It was said to have been dormant for up to 19 years before the return of the current democratic dispensation.
The inferno, which sparked off on Thursday April 18, currently affects Ororo, Parable Field, Isan-West Field, Opokaba and Malu fields. Communities affected are Ehinmoghan-Ikorigho, Iluayo, Otumara, Ikorigho, Ajegunle-Ikorigho, Zion Ikorigho and Kendo Ayeren communities.
However, there have been allegations by the communities that Chevron has been secretly operating the well for more than 19 years after officially declaring that the oil well was dormant. The communities are also accusing the company of short-changing the state government and oil producing communities of their royalties and other entitlements.
While presenting their papers at a meeting, where the company was summoned to, by the Ondo State House of Assembly, the communities dispelled arguments put forward by Chevron, insisting that the international oil company should shoulder all liabilities that the incident brought about.
“If someone enters into your compound, drives away in your car, knocks down and kills somebody, if he succeeded in running away without being caught, with your plate number, you will be identified as the owner of the vehicle, then you will be the one to explain to the police who you gave your car key to. I hope chevron will understand this and do the needful,” they said.
However, CNL, an operator of the Joint Venture (JV) between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and CNL (NNPC/CNL JV), confirmed the fire outbreak from an idle and plugged well with no flowline connected to it, and attributed it to interference of third party, who released hydrocarbon that caused the combustion.
The General Manager, Policy Government and Public Affairs of CNL, Mr. Esimaje Brikinn, who noted that there was prompt response after the fire started, revealed that the company notified stakeholders about the incident and also reported it to the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), and other regulatory and security agencies.
According to him, the company conducted an overflight to evaluate the fire and mobilised emergency responses to assess the site, contain the fire, and boom the area. “A Joint Investigation Visit FFS JIV), by a team made up of regulatory agencies, community stakeholders and the company was carried out on Saturday April 20, 2019, to ascertain the extent of the spill, impact on the environment, if any, and cause of the spill.”
Contrary to accusation that CNL left the oil-well unprotected and abandoned the people, Brikinn said, “there were protective mechanical components and installed barriers on the wellhead, which were tampered with by illegal bunkerers.”Shedding more light on how the unfortunate incident occurred, he disclosed that it was “as a result of third party activity, which led to uncontained release of hydrocarbon from Ojumole Well with the resultant fire incident. The hydrocarbon has been burning continually. Residue of oil is collected, while the water and gas in solution have been the source of the fire.”Brikinn condemned the act of vandalism and theft at the oil well, which led to the fire, in spite of the security arrangement put in place by the company to safeguard the oil well.
The 14 communities directly affected by the incident got the CNL to appear at a public hearing at the Assembly on Tuesday May 21, 2019, the 35th day of the inferno, where they decried the environmental impact of burning crude oil with its health implications on the residents and other habitats of the area.
Speaking for the Ilaje communities, Dr. Akin Akinruntan lamented that, “this oil well was once claimed by CNL to have been shut down because it is empty and dry. It is now obvious that CNL has been shortchanging the people and the government of Ondo State, not wanting to pay necessary royalty to the state and the people of Ilaje. “Or how do we explain an empty and dry well burning for 35 days non-stop? We need to ask CNL, how long does it take a barrel of crude oil to burn completely with the degree of inferno at Ojumole? Then we can estimate the number of barrels of crude that have been wasted since April 18, 2019 due to negligence and craftiness of CNL.”
Akinruntan reiterated that the communities “suspicion, which has not been proved is that CNL has probably tapped our crude oil and reticulated to another oil well in Delta State. This may be the reason CNL is trying to link the Ojumole oil well to Delta State.”He recounted that the ecological prospects of the people are gone with the flora and fauna being destroyed, lamenting further that the riverine people, who get their livelihood from fishing around the area could no longer go fishing simply because they do not know where the next fire might break out from.
The spokesman raised an alarm that the burning oil well has massive effect on the climate, which cannot be easily reversed due to the crude oil components like liquid, gas and sticky tar-like substances trapped in sponge-like base from where it is been extracted, in a siphoning/capillary manner.According to him, the incident has exposed the people and their habitat to some health hazards like carbon dioxide (CO2) greenhouse effect leading to global warming, carbon monoxide (CO), which increases the risk of heart diseases, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting and even death.
Akinruntan added that the people were equally exposed to sulphur dioxide (SO2) acid rain, respiratory diseases and heart diseases, especially in children and elderly; Nitrogen Oxide (NO) and volatile oxygen compounds (VOC) that irritate and damage the lungs, particulate matters (PM) that cause asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and lung cancer.
Other dangerous substances that the communities are exposed to, even as they claim that the CNL is about to turn their domain into a living mortuary, where they would be embalmed while they are still alive include lead that causes cancer, and various air toxins such as benzene, acetaldehyde, 1.3-butadiene carcinogens and formaldehyde.
“In 1991, Iraqi military forces bombed Kuwaiti oil wells causing fire similar to what we have now at Ojumole Oil Well 1 in Ilaje Ugbo, in Ilaje LGA of Ondo State. A health risk assessment was performed and the result was evident in the fact that the fire had affected the health of the people negatively,” he said.In this case, he continued: “The disease burden will be placed on the state government with her meagre resources if Chevron does not pay adequate compensation for the effects of the pollution because people will definitely come down with some form of diseases after this incident.”
Among other demands, the communities asked CNL to tell the method it intends to use in promptly putting out the fire in order to avoid the use of dangerous chemicals, which will further put the life of their people to jeopardy, adding that the affected environment should be cleaned up and cooled without delay.
“Medical examination of exposed people within 8km radius should be carried out and those with signs and symptoms should be treated immediately. Chevron should pay adequate compensation to the affected communities within 8km radius (due to low and high tide) to the tune and not less than $2.5b.
“Chevron should disclose the number of barrels per day of crude oil that is produced in Ojumole Oil Well. Chevron Nig. Ltd should properly address the Ojumole Oil Field as “Ojumole Oil Field, Ugbo Kingdom, Ilaje LGA, Ondo State and not link it to Delta State by any guise to forestall a breakdown of law and order between the two states,” they stressed.
Furthermore, they demanded that “the government of Ondo State should come to the aid of our people by critically studying the Amnesty International Report of June 2009 Pg.70-75 and the World Bank Report of 1995 on ‘Petroleum, Pollution and Poverty in the Niger Delta.“CNL as a matter of compulsion, should secure her oil wells in Ilaje LGA by employing the locals as security guards in order to forestall any other future occurrence in case a third party interference is suspected…”
The hearing, however, turned dramatic and uproarious as there were claims and counter-claims by the representatives of the affected communities on how the people would be compensated and the propriety of those, who had been representing the oil company as stakeholders in the bid to extinguish the fire.
The Speaker of the Assembly, Bamidele Oleyelogun, who jointly chaired the committee session with Abayomi Akinruntan, restored calm as he chastised the oil company for the delay in stopping the fire, and urged the company to compensate impacted communities. The lawmakers also promised to embark on an assessment tour of the affected communities soon.
Nonetheless, the oil company said it was working with emergency response contractors to safely put out the fire as quickly as possible, attributing the delay in doing so to the peculiar terrain of the location of the well. “There is the need to create an access path on the slot leading to the well head. This will enable the heavy equipment and men required to safely put out the fire. Chevron is currently dredging a channel to the slot leading to the well head to enable the heavy equipment and men required to safely put out the fire, gain access to the well location,” Brikinn said.
Speaking on the environmental impact, the CNL manager disclosed that, “all oil has been contained within CNL’s right-of-way and is being actively recovered. There are accredited independent environment consultants monitoring the environment. Our activities will be consistent with relevant environmental laws, regulations and guidelines.
“We continue to conduct our operations safely, reliably and efficiently with utmost consideration for protection of people and the environment. CNL places the highest priority on the health and safety of its neighbouring communities, workforce and protection of the environment and its asset,” he stated.
Furthermore, Brikinn assured that independent health and environment experts, as well as representatives of the NOSDRA and the DPR are on site to observe the monitoring of the environment.On his part, the Manager, DPR Area Office, Warri, Mr. Oluwagbotemi Oluwadahunsi appealed that CNL should be given time to put out the fire properly and in a safe way so as not to complicate the potential side effect of the fire. Oluwadahunsi further explained that, “Chevron has been responding to the issues within regulatory requirement,” and DPR has been giving expedited approval to Chevron to do whatever it needs to do to put out the fire.
No comments yet