The House of Representatives has resolved to investigate abandoned oil wells and spills from at least three Oil Mining Leases.
The House mandated its Committees on Petroleum Resources (Upstream) and Environment to “investigate the actual cause of the oil leaks at OML 18, OML 29 and OML 63, with a mandate to utilise experienced professionals to provide required insight, support and results.”
The committee is also to “determine the magnitude, scope, and effect of the leaks on affected hast communities; examine the scope and liability for required relief and compensation, including the status of provision of same; inquire the nature and details of the JV agreement between Aiteo and NNPC to determine veracity of ownership of percentage stake and financial obligations.
“Confirm the claim by Aiteo of engagement of a foreign company to stop the leak, the cost of doing so and the financial claim made by Aiteo to NAPIMS in this regard; and examine the nature and details of the JV agreement between Eroton and NNPC to determine completion of financial and other obligations for ownership.”
Furthermore, the panel will “verify the numbers of idle and isolated wells currently existing on Aiteo, Eroton and other indigenous and international oil companies’ oil fields across Nigeria, the condition of these wells and the status of their management and abandonment in compliance with statutory provisions and international best practice.”
In addition, it will “explain the potential for significant residual deposits from identified idle and isolated wells across the country, the best methodology and strategy to achieve this additional revenue stream and the best international best practices being employed by other oil producing countries to achieve this.”
The committee is to report back to the House within two weeks for further legislative action.
These resolutions were sequel to the unanimous adoption of the motion moved by a member, Ibrahim Isiaka, titled ‘Urgent Need to Investigate Oil Spills at OML 18, OML 29, OML 63 and the Status of All Idle, Isolated and Abandoned Wells on Order to Avert Renewed Hostilities in the Niger Delta Region of the Country.’
Isiaka said he was raising the alarm over the confirmation by the National Oil Spill Detection Agency on June 25, 2022, of an ongoing oil leak for one week, from Cawthorne Channel Well 15, an idle and isolated well on Oil Mining Lease 18.
He noted that it is a large oil bloc located towards the south of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, operated by Eroton Exploration and Production Limited, which has 45 per cent stake in a Joint Venture Agreement with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (now Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited) after Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited divested her interest in the bloc, in 2015.
The lawmaker added that the Corporate Communications Lead of Eroton reported an oil leak, which eventually resulted in a blowout of crude oil and gas into the environment on June 15, 2022, “whereas NOSDRA only reported the incident on June 25, 2022 – 10 days thereafter.
He stressed that the expected required Joint Investigation Visit by the relevant stakeholders – Eroton, Nigeria Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NRC), NNPC and the Rivers State Ministry of Environment – “has still not been conducted almost two weeks after the occurrence.”
Isiaka added, “No effort has been made to either stop or control the oil leak and this portends grave consequences to the ecosystem and the affected host communities.”
The lawmaker also noted that Aiteo Group, operator of another JV with NNPC, also reported an oil leak from its “idle and isolated” Santa Barbara oil well Head 1 on OML 29 in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State on November 5, 2021.
“The leak, which persisted for 32 days, was alleged to have spilled hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude into the Santa Barbara River and its tributaries, which traverse three kingdoms in Bayelsa State destroying sources of drinking water, fishing and farming ecosystem. Over six months later, the cause of the oil leak on OML 29 is still unknown,” he said.
According to the lawmaker, like OML 29, the unending phenomenon surrounding the current spill on OML 18 has not been conducted about two weeks after the occurrence. He added that the NAOC oil spill at OML 63 in Lasukugbena, Bayelsa State, lasted over one month, yet the root cause analysis has not been officially determined till date.
Isiaka said, “The House is also disturbed about recent statistics that show Nigeria has probably the worst oil spill record in the word with over 4,919 oil spills between 2015 and 2021, releasing over 400,000 barrels into the environment and ecosystem of affected communities.”
The lawmaker noted that there were allegations that “Aiteo, Eroton, and almost all indigenous and international oil companies operating in Nigeria have idle wells on most of their fields, which are not properly managed or abandoned and are likely to experience a blowout at any time, with potentially very grave consequences to the environment, health, safety, and socio-economic well being of millions of innocent Nigerian Citizens who inhabit the affected host communities.”
He said, “The House is curious about the postulation by industry professionals that in the light of current dwindling crude oil production output in Nigeria, up to 800,000 barrels of residual crude oil deposits can be obtained from idle and isolated wells across different oil fields in the country, with huge economic benefit to the country, similar to several oil-producing countries around the world who have consciously developed a strategy in this regard.”