The Bayelsa State government is now set to investigate the safety records of multinational oil company, Agip, after this website exposed an apparent plan by government and company officials to downplay the extent of casualties from last week’s explosion at an Agip facility.
On July 9, 2015, 13 people were killed as a result of an explosion at Agip’s Tebidaba-Clough Creek pipeline at Azuzuama in southern Ijaw Local Government Area. Three other persons were injured in the explosion.
Among the dead were an official of the Bayelsa Ministry of Environment, a staff of a regulatory agency, the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), and maintenance crew of an oil services firm. They were investigating the cause of a recent oil spill in the area when the deadly explosion occurred.
Yesterday, the Bayelsa State government indicated its readiness to look into Agip’s safety records at the firm’s oil fields in the State.
The turnaround followed a seeming attempt by state officials to help the oil firm cover up major lapses in safety standards. Some members of the Agip management had held a clandestine meeting with Bayelsa government officials at the company’s office in Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State. Iniruo Wills, the Bayelsa State Commissioner for Environment, led other top government officials to the meeting designed to help the company conceal its violation of safety standards.
Yesterday, Governor Seriake Dickson disclosed that his administration was ordering a comprehensive forensic investigation into the Agip pipeline explosion. Speaking at a meeting with officials of the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) and NOSDRA in Yenagoa, the state capital, Mr. Dickson vowed that the incident would not be swept under the carpet.
The governor accused the company of failing to comply with environmentally accepted standards in its operations in the state. He added that the state government would explore all legal means to seek redress over the tragic explosion and other violations of the environment by the firm.
Mr. Dickson urged oil companies and other firms to operate in line with international standards, and voiced dismay at the absence of NAOC's Managing Director at the meeting.
He stated that, henceforth, he would insist on dealing with chief executive officers of any firm in discussing any weighty mutual issues, where binding decisions are to be taken.
The governor consoled the families who lost relatives to the explosion, then restated his administration's commitment to protect the environment against any further destruction by oil companies and pipeline vandals.
“In this government, we are concerned about the environment. The statistics that have been read out is alarming, to say the least,” he told Agip officials at the meeting. The governor added: “I can't imagine in this state, how from your facilities alone, 656 spills occurred in one year.
“That means almost three spills at three different sites occur everyday of the year. That is very troubling even though I know that the activities of some of our people also contribute to it.”
Mr. Dickson disclosed that the plethora of complaints against many oil companies, but Agip in particular, called for “a full forensic investigation.”
“I don't want to prejudge the final report that will come,” the governor stated, adding, “if the investigation concludes that your company has not or is not doing enough in terms of observing environmentally accepted standards, the Government of Bayelsa State will not hesitate in taking action.”
According to the governor, the State’s action could include “moving for a revocation of your license to operate here.”
A statement issued by Eni, the parent company of Agip Nigeria, seemed to blame the July 9 explosion on sabotage by vandals. The statement, signed by Eni’s spokesman, Filipo Cotalini, disclosed that “an explosion occurred yesterday, 9 July late afternoon, at the site of the repair works of the Tebidaba-Clough Creek line, an oil pipeline in Nigeria’s onshore Niger Delta, previously damaged by acts of sabotage.
“The explosion resulted in the death of 12 members of the maintenance team of a local company of services, with 3 others being injured.
“The causes of the incident are still under investigation by both Eni and the local authorities.” The statement expressed the firm’s condolences to the families of those who were killed or injured in the explosion.