The Ijaw National Congress (INC) has rebuked Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company for its poor response to the November 5 spill from its oilfields in Nembe, Bayelsa.

The group stated that it was wrong for Aiteo to link the wellhead leak within its oil bloc in the Nembe creeks when a Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) had not been conducted on the incident.

The News Agency of Nigeria reported that the Director-General of the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Idris Musa, revealed that a joint investigation into the cause could not be held until the leak was stopped.

Sources close to the affected fishing settlements along the Nembe creeks told NAN that efforts to plug the leak had yet to bring results as the well continues to spew oil and gas into the environment.

INC President Benjamin Okaba said these while briefing journalists at the national secretariat of the organisation in Yenagoa on the incident, following a visit to the impacted site by its team of environmentalists.

At the press conference, Okaba was flanked by the secretary of the body, Ebipamowei Wodu, financial secretary, Kennedy Odiowei, publicity secretary, Ezonebi Oyakemeagbeha and second vice president, Nengi James, who headed the team that visited the site.

Aiteo, in a statement issued by its spokesperson, Matthew Ndiana reiterated that sabotage was suspected to be the cause of the leak.

But Okaba faulted Aiteo’s position on sabotage, saying it could jeopardise the outcome of the JIV yet to be carried out as crude is still leaking from the facility.

“First and foremost, we want to express our dismay over the position of Aiteo that the oil spill was caused by sabotage. The INC considers this position as prejudicial and pre-emptive, and it is unacceptable,” he added.

“Since the leak occurred, Aiteo has been complaining that it does not have the capacity to mobilise personnel to clamp the leaking point on the facility. So the question is: without the JIV, how did they come up to ascertain that it is caused by sabotage?”

The INC leader called on NOSDRA to live up to its obligations and not bend rules on the incident.

“The place is still leaking; it is of a peculiar nature because it is not from the pipeline. It is coming from the flow under, to the extent that it is difficult for any living being to even access the spot of damage. It requires high technology,” he said.

On the donation of four truckloads of food items, medical supplies and N5million cash to the impacted communities, Okaba observed that the package was meagre considering the number of impacted residents in the 41 communities.

“They sent only 200 bags of rice. This is inhumanity taken too far. Two hundred bags of rice are what a company that has destroyed people’s livelihoods is talking about. They are not even ashamed of themselves," Okaba revealed.

“They should be ashamed of themselves to even attribute the incident to sabotage. We are too smart for that kind of dirty politics.”

The operator of the OML 29 asset acquired following the 2015 divestment by Shell said it had enlisted foreign experts to help cap the leaking well and hoped to stop the leak in a couple of days.

OML 29 includes the 97-kilometre Nembe Creek Trunk Line, which conveys crude produced from onshore swamp wells to the Bonny Export Terminal operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company.

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