Residents of Ibeno, a coastal settlement on the Atlantic coastline in Akwa Ibom have woken up to witness yet another oil spill barely 50 days after the last one occurred on May 1.The disaster has been confirmed by the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), which said it detected yet another oil spill at the Qua Iboe oil fields.
NOSDRA had taken the management of Mobil Producing Nigeria, the Nigerian unit of American ExxonMobil by surprise by visiting the site to take samples of the crude without the knowledge of the oil company.
Fingerprint tests of the crude samples will not only reveal the company responsible but also trace the oil to the particular oil well of origin.
Community sources in Ibeno said that the latest oil spill would worsen the plight of thousands of peasants who depended on the Atlantic Ocean depriving the neighbouring communities their means of livelihood.
ExxonMobil officials continued to deny the spill, which occurred at the weekend, until it realized that a release of the fingerprint tests by NOSDRA would cause further embarrassment to their already battered image. It then reluctantly filed a report to the agency claiming that less than a barrel of crude oil had leaked into the Atlantic, a move calculated to insulate the American firm from compensation claims.
An official of the oil spill agency reportedly dismissed the claim of ExxonMobil officials who were described as “pathological liars” whose only consideration is their profit bottomline even when there is obvious damage to the environment and aquatic life.
An official of NOSDRA who did want to be named said: “There is a spill and we have visited the site and taken samples and there is impact on the shoreline already. “The oily discharge had travelled about 2 kilometers from the Qua Iboe Terminal by the time we got to the site.”
He stated further, “We noticed that the crude has been dispersed so we shall analyze the samples in our laboratory. We are not going to take things lying low because only a fortnight ago, Nigeria’s Minister of Environment summoned and warned ExxonMobil that Nigeria was not going to tolerate breaches of our environmental laws, and they have yet committed the same offence.
“They refused to report the spill to us and when it dawned on them that their game was up, they filed a report as an afterthought, I do hope that our superiors will impose the sanction for delaying to report the spill and fine them accordingly to send the right signals to them.”
Saharareporters gathered that, to hide the current spill, ExxonMobil mobilized a response team to the spill site to arrest the spread of the oil with the application of chemical dispersants without the approval of regulatory authorities to breakdown and sink the oil to the sea bed but ExxonMobil ran out of luck as the spill showed up at the shoreline.
It was also learnt that the deposits contained a mixture of crude oil and chemical dispersants.
Fishermen at the Ibeno beach near Mobil’s Qua Iboe terminal told Saharareporters that it took the vigilance of fishermen and members of the community to observe the oil spill on the high seas on Sunday. They subsequently raised the alarm and alerted the government agency responsible for fighting oil spills.
Rev. Samuel Ayadi, Chairman of Akwa Ibom chapter of Artisan Fishermen Association of Nigeria (ARFAN) reportedly lamented that frequent oil spills from Mobil facilities had almost forced them out of business.
“We are still talking about the spill of May 1, which led to a protest and the conflict had not been settled before this one happened again.
“The spills keep occurring regularly because the pipeline network has outlived its lifespan and is begging for replacement; we challenge ExxonMobil to emulate what BP did in the Gulf of Mexico by way of response and prompt compensation of affected people to the tune of $20 billion dollars and to respect our environmental laws,” Ayadi said.
There has been no official comment on the development from Mobil Producing Nigeria in Eket, as Public Affairs officials maintained they are yet to be briefed on the development by the appropriate department of the oil firm.