Nigeria’s Bayelsa state government said Feb. 9 it will speed up the release of money to help hundreds of thousands of villagers affected by a Chevron off-shore oil spill in January. The affected areas are Kolo Ama I and II, Akasa, Sanagana, Fish Town, Fropa, Ekeni, Ezetu and Lobia—all in Bayelsa state, and with a combined population of some 500,000. Bukola Saraki, chairman of the Senate committee on environment and ecology, said his committee had convened several meetings with senior Chevron Nigeria officials, the Nigerian National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, and the Nigerian Department of Petroleum Resources to plan an initial impact assessment of the contamination and begin clean-up operations. “We will also ensure that Chevron takes appropriate steps to contain the spill, remediate the impacted area and if there has been any loss as a result, ensure that adequate compensation is paid to the immediate community,” Saraki said.
On its website, Chevron said it had hired local community residents to monitor the shoreline near the stricken KS Endeavor platform, but by Feb. 2 there had not been any reports of crude oil on the beaches. The company also said it has moved food and other supplies to the affected communities. However, communities in Bayelsa state say they are feeling the effects of the spillage—inhaling gases from the burning rig, and having to put up with polluted drinking water and fish. “There is evidence that fish have died and that is the mainstay of the people,” said Saraki.
Preye Brown, branch chairman of the National Youth Council of Nigeria, who lives in the area, said the entire coastal swamp forest was now covered by polluted water, affecting fish breeding grounds. “Therefore, I am calling for the government to carry out temporary relocation of the indigenes until everything subsides. The only source of drinking water in Kolo Ama and neighbouring communities is now polluted; the indigenes have to depend on sachet water which is expensive,” he said. Igwe Napoleon, Bayelsa branch secretary of the Nigeria Red Cross, said “there are cases of coughing and eye irritation all over the area, which is a result of the gases released into the air by the inferno.”
Chevron said in its statement: “A fire started aboard the shallow-water jack-up drilling rig KS Endeavor. The rig was drilling a natural gas exploration well approximately 10 kilometres off the coast of Nigeria and in roughly 12 metres of water.” The statement added that the cause of the incident was being investigated. (IRIN, Feb. 10; Upstream Online, Jan. 19)