The regulatory agencies investigating the November 5 oil spill at Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29 at Nembe, Bayelsa State have attributed the incident which polluted the Santa Barbra River and Nembe creeks to sabotage.
This position, however, has stirred controversy as parties held divergent views as no consensus was reportedly reached by the joint investigative team after Wednesday’s trip to the troubled oil well location along the Santa Barbra River in Nembe.
The Joint Investigative Visit (JIV) to ascertain the cause, volume and impacted areas resumed on Wednesday following a visit by Minister of State for Environment, Mrs Sharon Ikeazor, a day earlier.
Speaking after the JIV on Thursday, representatives of the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commision (NUPRC) traced the leak to sabotage.
Mr Ismail Baba-Ahmed, a representative of NOSDRA on the JIV said from his expertise on fluid mechanics and his interactions with the wellhead experts who plugged the leak, only vandalism could have caused the spill.
He explained that he gathered from the wellhead engineers that the threading on the wellhead casing where the valve was removed was not worn out, a development that suggests that the leak was not caused by pressure.
Also, Mr Adetoyibo Adeyemi of NUPRC agreed with the position of NOSDRA adding that physical examination of the failed well head from an engineering point of view indicate that the pressure from the oil well was not sufficient to blow the well.
However, the representatives of the impacted communities, Bayelsa Ministry of Environment and Bayelsa Technical Committee on the Oil Spill subsequently declined to sign the JIV report and made the exercise inconclusive.
The Head of Pollution Control, Bayelsa Ministry of Environment, Mr. Enai Reuben, noted that the JIV team was not able to see the exact point of leak for physical examination and hence could not ascertain the cause.
Enai said he had reservations over the procedure of scheduling the JIV after the operator had tampered with and fixed the missing valves that would have been scrutinised by the JIV team.
According to him, it would be inaccurate to draw a conclusion without seeing the leak point in an investigation that is evidence-based and wondered why the wellhead could not be preserved for evaluation after the leak was stopped.
It would be recalled that the leak which was reported on November 5 was plugged on December 8 and some 16,280 barrels of crude and crude sediments have reportedly so far been recovered from the incident site.