The unholy alliance between officials of Agip and government officials following the explosion that rocked the company’s Azuzuama oil fields has been torn to shreds over irreconcilable differences.
SaharaReporters was alerted of secret meetings at the oil firm’s office in Port Harcourt to keep casualty figures low and keep details of the incident away from public scrutiny.
The agreement resulted in Agip giving the death toll as 12 even when many more were believed to have died in the explosion.
As the agreement broke down, the government officials released a casualty figure of 14, a development that irked Agip, which believed that higher casualty figures will increase its liability in terms of compensation.
Following the disclosure, Agip fell out of tune with government and withheld relevant documents regarding the victims of the incident.
The Bayelsa State government has threatened to sanction the management of the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) for unreasonable delays in releasing these documents as well as the remains of the victims of the pipeline explosion.
According to government figures, 14 people died in the incident, which occurred on July 9, 2015 in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area. Two regulatory officials from Bayelsa’s Ministry of Environment and National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) are among the dead.
Iniruo Wills, the Commissioner for Environment in Bayelsa, said on Wednesday that NOAC’s management was withholding autopsy reports and death certificates of the victims.
Mr. Wills decried the stance of the oil firm, which he said had frustrated burial plans by the families of the deceased. “We would treat it as a provocation and respond with appropriate governmental sanctions if we don't receive these papers immediately,” he said.
NOAC employees, representatives of the host community, and Bayelsa Ministry of Environment officials were investigating the cause of a recent oil spill in the area when the explosion occurred.
Dan Jumbo, a NAOC spokesman, rebuffed several requests to speak when contacted for comments on the developments.