The Nembe Chiefs Council of Nembe Communities of Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State has sent a protest letter to the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) over allegations of “gross negligence and concealment” of the Aiteo Exploration company operator of the 97 kilometre Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL) that exploded in the early hours of Saturday.

The explosion, which occurred at about 4am on Friday near Oil Well 7, sacked indigenes of the affected communities. The Nembe communities affected include Nembe Creek 1, 2 and 3, Jalungo, Fatuo and Kalablomi.

The Nembe Chiefs Council, through its spokesperson, Chief Nengi James Eriworio, alleged that the refusal of the oil exploration company to inform the monitoring authority of National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and other relevant agencies for verification and necessary action within two hours of occurrence is an alleged case of concealment.

The petition read: "On behalf of Nembe Chiefs Council, I wish to call on NNPC to sanction Aiteo Company for concealing a high level of leakage and a gas explosion at their facility at Nembe Creek. It is an offence by law for an oil producing company not to report such an aforesaid incident to NOSDRA and other relevant agencies for verification and necessary action.

"As a Community (Kingdom), we will not take kindly to exposing our indigenes to environmental and health danger. We will not hesitate to call for the revocation of Aiteo’s licence. What happened at Nembe Creek near Well 7 is unacceptable and seen as a gross abuse of environmental rules and regulations. We urge the Director General of NOSDRA and others to visit the site of the incident for confirmation and for the record."

Meanwhile, the management of the Aiteo Exploration Ltd, operator of the 97 kilometre Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL), has said the resulting fire from the explosion has been put out and no loss of life was recorded.

The incident on NCTL, which has a capacity of conveying 150,000 barrels of crude daily to the Bonny oil export terminal, will adversely affect crude export having been put out of use.

Ndiana-Abasi Mathew, a Public Relations Manager of Aiteo, confirmed the incident in a short message on Saturday, stating that: “There is no official statement at the moment but I can gladly inform you that the fire has been contained and no lives were lost.”

It was learnt that the oil export line was shut for emergency repairs following a leak when the incident occurred and discharged residual crude and gas got trapped in the pipeline.

In 2015, the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) divested its equity in OML 29 and transferred its interest in NCTL for $1.7billion to Aiteo, an indigenous oil and gas exploration and production firm

Community sources at Nembe in Bayelsa have bemoaned the negative impact of the explosion, saying the incident led to both gas leakage and oil spillage.

Speaking on the incident, Eriworio added: "As at early morning of Saturday, the fire was still raging. And with gas and crude leak flowing freely you can then imagine the fate of our people. The poor response of Aiteo to this incident is not acceptable and questionable. The people are traumatized and their health put at risk.

"We are concerned that Aiteo, despite the clandestine acquisition of the asset from SPDC without due consultation with the people, has continued to undermine the economic rights of the people. We are worried about the poor incident response and attitude of the company towards the host communities in Nembe.

“They have abused the rights of the people. We are ready to drag the company before the National Assembly and the Presidency.”

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