By Samuel Oyadongha
CHEVRON Nigeria Limited and its host communities have differed on leaks reported at Funiwa oilfields operated by the former, off Bayelsa coastline.
Local fishermen on the Atlantic fringe had on Sunday reported an oil leak suspected to be from the Funiwa oilfields.
While the fishermen from Chevron’s host community of Koluama in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state linked the spill to the company facility, the latter dismissed the claim.
Reacting to the development, Esimaje Brikinn, General Manager, Policy, Government and Public Affairs at Chevron in a statement, said: “Chevron, 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 State.”
However, Chief Young Fabby, a community leader in Koluama I, said the denial by Chevron was a ploy to evade liability for the leak and associated pollution.
According to him, the company 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.
He said: “The oil company equally used security personnel to ward off fishermen who tried to take photographs and video of the exercise being carried out by helicopters.
“If there was no 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 5 within the Funiwa field location. We have video clips of the leakage and wonder why Chevron is denying the incident.
“They 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.”
Also, a community leader, Matthew Sele-Epri, said there was ample evidence of the oil spill and that he personally went to the site to verify the claim.
He said: “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.”
Contacted, Mr Idris Musa, Director General, National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, said the agency would dispatch its officials to the Funiwa field to ascertain the source and cause of the leak.