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Bayelsa Communities Lock Horns With American Big Oil Over Spill

American oil giant’s subsidiary, Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) is currently locked in a bitter dispute with some of its host communities in Bayelsa State. They holding divergent views on leaks reported at Funiwa Oil Fields operated by the big oil off the shoreline of the state.

Fishermen operating near the Atlantic Ocean coastline had on Sunday reported an oil leak suspected to be from the Funiwa Fields.

While the fishermen from CNL’s host community at Koluama in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area point accusing fingers at Chevron, the oil firm denies the allegations.

Chevron’s General Manager, Policy, Government and Public Affairs, Esimaje Brikinn, is claiming that there was no oil leakage from its operations in Bayelsa.

“Chevron Nigeria Limited, operator of the joint venture between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and CNL (the NNPC/CNL JV), confirms that there has been no oil spill incident at any of its facilities in Bayelsa”, he said.

But, a community leader in Koluama 1, Chief Young Fabby, is saying that the denial by Chevron was merely a ploy to evade liability for the leak and associated pollution.

He is alleging that the American oil major had deployed several helicopters to apply chemical dispersants to dissolve and breakdown the oil deposits on the water surface without the knowledge of stakeholders in a bid to cover up the spill.

“The oil company equally used the Navy and security personnel to ward off fishermen who tried to shoot photographs and video of the exercise being carried out by helicopters. If there was not leak why did they deploy naval personnel and soldiers to cordon off the area?

“We are precise about the location of the oil discharge. It is at Well No, 5 within the Funiwa field location. We have video clips of the leakage and wondered why Chevron is denying this incident.

“The have been using chemicals without first informing the regulators and the community, as we speak I am at the coastline and we have a heap of nets stained with oil and the crude oil has hit the coast”, Fabby said.

Another community leader from the area, Mathew Sele-Epri, says there is ample evidence of the oil spill adding that he personally went to the site to verify the claim.

He said that all the operators near the area had denied liability and that the community leadership will enlist the assistance of Bayelsa Ministry of Environment to determine the source.

“All the companies near the spot, Chevron and Conoil have denied ownership of the oil and we now wonder who has the oil, we are going to engage the state ministry of environment to help us track the source.

“They will bring the regulators to take samples and match the ones we have taken and conduct a fingerprint test to find out which of the operators is responsible,” Sele-Epri said.

Director General of National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Idris Musa, says the agency will dispatch its officials to the Funiwa field to ascertain the source and cause of the leak.

First Exploration and Production, an indigenous oil firm operates Oil Mining Leases 83 and 85 acquired from Chevron following its divestment from some of its assets in the area where it still retains interests in some fields.

Conoil Producing Limited is also another indigenous oil firm operates at nearby oil blocks.

Officials of Conoil and First Exploration and Production are yet to respond to requests for comments on the incident.

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