The alarm raised by residents of Ibeno community in Akwa Ibom State, over a mysterious oil spill which has contaminated the coastline around the oil-rich fishing settlement, has unnerved major oil and gas companies operating in the state, as tension mounts between the companies and their host communities of Ibeno and Iwuokpom.
But sequel to the plethora of denials by the companies, and the rising tension in the impacted communities, the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), has appealed for calm, saying that it has already commenced vigorous investigations to unravel the mystery surrounding the oil spill.
Zonal Director of NOSDRA, Obot Irvin, told The Tide in an exclusive telephone interview last Thursday, that a joint team of the agency, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the communities and MPN has visited the spill site to collect soil and crude samples for laboratory tests and analysis in Port Harcourt.
It would be recalled that fishermen, who operate in the Atlantic Ocean, had noticed the oil deposits on the coastline, and reported the spread of the sludge to Mobil Producing Nigeria (MPN), operator of the Qua Ibo oil field.
However, in addition to Mobil, Total Exploration and Production, Addax Petroleum and Afren Energy, an indigenous oil firm, also operate in the Akwa Ibom offshore oil field.
But, in a swift statement, Mobil denied any leakage of its facilities in the area.
According to the company, “the properties of the crude deposit are not consistent with our crude streams, and therefore, not from Mobil facilities”.
Apart from Mobil, other oil and gas exploration and production companies operating in the area have equally denied any form of involvement in the oil spill, anchoring their defence on the fact that the sludge occurred outside their operational areas, insisting that their systems had witnessed no leakages so far.
As at the time of filing this report, the results of the laboratory tests and analysis have yet to be released.
However, The Tide gathered that while the regulatory agencies await the results of the sample tests, the oil companies operating in the area and the host communities are already locked in serious disagreement over the source of the oil spill, thus heightening tension in the area.
It was learnt that the communities have raised the stakes in the area, calling Mobil’s resistance of pleas to take responsibility and clean up the spill, disappointing and an act of irresponsibility.
The communities have also accused MPN management of insensitivity and gross neglect to the plights of the people.
The Tide checks show that this present investigation is coming on the heels of a similar one embarked upon last December by regulatory agencies to confirm Mobil’s complicity in an oil spill incident in the same field.