According to the government officials, the visit was to assure the affected communities of government’s efforts to ascertain the source of the spill, extent of the spill and its effects on the livelihoods of the people.
The oil spill happened on January 16 near Funiwa offshore facilities, off the Atlantic coast.
The Senior Special Assistant to the Bayelsa State Governor on Oil and Gas, Mr. Timi Seimiebo, who led the visitation team, urged the people of the community to remain calm.
He said samples taken from the oil spill site would be sent for laboratory analysis to know the oil exploration company responsible for it.
According to Seimiebo, “Once the samples have been tested and the identity of the company is known, we will ask them to stand up to their responsibility as an oil company.”
Also speaking, an environmentalist and Head of Field Operations, Environment Rights Action, Comrade Alagoa Morris, explained that though the visit was not the statutory Joint Investigative Visit (JIV), the trip was a fact-finding mission to assess the level of impact on the people and environment.
“The visit was an assessment trip to see things and suggest the way forward given the fact that no oil company has owned up. It cannot be a JIV because no oil company was represented so we shall submit an interim report to guide our further action,” Morris said.
Also, Mr Kiwei Emmanuel, Youth President of Koluama 1, one of the areas worst hit by the spill, said the regulators — Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) — took samples from the sediments at the coastline for laboratory tests to trace the source of pollution.
Emmanuel said members of the team also saw heaps of fishing nets, fishing gear and accessories destroyed by the pollution, and traced the spread of the crude along the coast into the creeks and mangrove vegetation.
The oil spill, which occurred last week in the Koluama community of Bayelsa State, has attracted public attention following the denial by Chevron Oil Company that it was responsible for it as earlier claimed by the residents of the community.
While Chevron Oil Limited owns Funiwa Oil Platform, Conoil Limited owns Auntie Julie Oil Platform in the area.
The oil spill has affected aquatic life and the mainstay of the community’s economy, which is fishing.
The Chairman of the KEFFES Rural Development Foundation, Mr. Mathew Sele-epri, said he got in touch with the major operators in the area as soon as he heard about the spill.
“As I took a boat ride in the affected parts of the water, I saw dead fishes floating. And I noticed that the ecosystem was being damaged and aquatic life had been grossly affected,” he said.