The hydrocarbon industry which powers human civilization is a complex, specialized and strategic arena all over the world. As such, incidents in the course of crude oil exploration and exploitation need to be professionally managed and certainly not deliberately politicized by forces that don’t understand the key issues – or seek division.

The recent Nembe oil wellhead blowout and spillage incident is an example of how genuine and expert interventions already deployed should not be politicized, distracted or hobbled by hostile fringe industry interests.

The OML 29 Well 1 platform, which is operated by Nigeria’s largest indigenous oil firm, Aiteo Exploration and Production Company Limited (AEEPCO), a JV with the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) experienced a wellhead gas/crude blowout.

On November 5, AEEPCO reported a major oil leak from its Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29, the Santa Barbara South field, in Nembe, Bayelsa State from a blowout which was spewing oil into the water bodies and contiguous communities and fumes in the air.

The well in question consists of the 97km Nembe Creek trunk line which evacuates crude from onshore oil wells within the oil bloc and other operators to Bonny Export Terminal.

Aware that the spill situation was time-sensitive and rightly so, Aiteo activated technical containment measures and quickly invited a highly competent US-based firm with expertise in emergencies of this nature to help arrest the situation. The firm has since mobilized to ground zero to contain the leak and fast-track spill recovery. This is besides community targeted measures to provide relief and health-related support.

But for some strange reasons, several forces have equally deployed their armaments to smear and damage the image of Aiteo. From peddling specious information that the spill is more than two million barrels, some have alleged that over 500,000 barrels were spilled while some hold on to 400,000.

According to the Director General/Chief Executive Officer, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Idris Musa, who spoke last week on a national TV show, “It is absolutely wrong and preposterous for people to make false speculations over the oil spillage in Nembe communities of Bayelsa State.”

The speculative mumbo-jumbo is being dispensed despite the fact that competent regulatory agencies exist which could provide such information. To show the extent of mischief, few have asked how many barrels have the wellhead been producing prior to the blowout. OML 29 before the blowout was producing 700 barrels.

This is simply organized conspiracy to put down Aiteo. Despite efforts by Aiteo to professionally contain the spill in Nembe, some see this incident as an opportunity to attack the company. Some interests are curiously putting out old spill videos to create a negative false impression of the extent incident.

It certainly cannot be overstressed that what is playing out appears like a well-choreographed intrigue at work to undermine Aiteo and besmirch ongoing efforts to contain the leak and mitigate the impact on communities around the location of the well. First was the exaggeration of massive oil spill, which some compared to Hiroshima atomic bomb destruction. Comparing the Nembe oil spill to the US atomic bomb destruction of Hiroshima in Japan, during the Second World War is taking mischief to a dangerous level. Worse, it betrays crass ignorance.

Clearly, it is scandalous to liken it to Hiroshima. Except one has a very bad motive – it would then make sense to liken Nembe oil spill to Hiroshima. Not surprisingly, after putting out this narrative these same hostile forces of divisiveness who apparently have an axe to grind with Nigeria’s biggest indigenous oil company started circulating old spill videos to give fuel to their plot and set the communities against the company. They spread all the false video to various social media platforms to create the impression of massive environmental damage to the ecosystem.

Even Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State who is not a petroleum engineer unexpectedly exceeded his knowledge boundaries by alleging impossible scenarios. Douye Diri who holds a B.Ed in Political Science from the University of Port Harcourt, in 1990, said the Nembe spill is worse than the Gulf of Mexico spill. This is also extreme misinformation stemming from willful ignorance or dark motive.

The April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was considered to be the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry and estimated to be 8 to 31 percent larger in volume than the previous largest, the Ixtoc I oil spill, also in the Gulf of Mexico. Comparisons between the two or three scenarios bespeak mischievous conspiracy. Politicization of the Nembe spill will only serve to undermine the industry.

More importantly, when journalists finally visited the location yesterday, they realized that the extent of spill had been greatly exaggerated beyond what the reality they met on ground. The questions are; who are those behind this plot? Who is paying for it? Who benefits from these damaging stories based on ignorance and outright fake news?

The governor who was out of the country when this spill happened did not feel the urgency to cut short his trip to return and supervise the clean-up. He rather chose to spend time and enjoy himself fully before heading home – only to sheepishly and ridiculously describe it as comparable to the Gulf of Mexico spill.

What benefits could His Excellency possibly garner from a disaster he should also be in the forefront of aiding genuine mitigation and stability? Granted it is within his legitimate rights to protect his citizens, this should align with scientific templates of managing spills as obtained elsewhere in the industry.

Immediately, the blowout in question occurred, Aiteo followed professional procedure and alerted the regulatory agencies and activated critical technical and community-focused interventions. Journalists who visited the wellhead blowout ground zero this week saw for themselves the extensive efforts deployed to cage and remediate the situation.

What they observed contrasted sharply with a lot of the disinformation being peddled by forces hostile to Aiteo for whatever reasons. According to the oil company, “Aiteo Officials are closely monitoring all activities related to the affected communities, viz. feeding, lighting, hygiene, drinking water and medical requirements with the help of local associations.

“Aiteo Safety and security and HSE teams are monitoring the quality of air every six hours to ascertain the livability of the areas adjoining ground zero. Aiteo is mobilizing additional relief materials for the affected communities.”

The Presidency and relevant agencies, on their parts, have responded admirably in containing the Nembe spill and also providing stability. But from closer examination, it appears this conspiracy is an attempt to sabotage and rubbish the image of Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. All his efforts at reorganizing and reforming the crucial sector are been targeted by some forces whose motives are diabolical and want to capitalize on this spill by exaggerating its impact beyond the scope of what is on the ground. Ultimately, they want to use it to undermine the federal administration and claim the Buhari government is not working and all of that hogwash. They have already imputed that federal government officials are compromised on the issue. Compromised by who and for what purpose? Instead of acknowledging that Aiteo is working with government officials to clean up the spill and bring the situation under control as should be expected, these diabolical agents, are very willing to cast aspersion on the integrity of these officials in furtherance of their dangerous obsession with Benedict Peters, driven primarily by the aim to target and destroy individual reputations and integrity of cooperate concerns built over several years.

The hydrocarbon industry, though coming with its peculiar hazards, remains very important to human civilization. When incidents like this occur, they must be professionally managed as is being done currently and not dangerously politicized or mischaracterized by forces with dark motives.

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