Chief Executive Officer, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Mr. Idris O. Musa in this interview with the Publisher, Nigerian NewsDirect Dr Samuel Ibiyemi speaks on activities of NOSDRA, media reports on oil pipeline vandalism, sensitization of Nigerians by NOSDRA about the dangers of vandalism and effects on revenue generation. Excerpts:
What are the major activities of NOSDRAin the oil industry?
Thank you very much. You recalled that I was appointed as the Director-General of the National Oil Spill Detention and Response Agency (NOSDRA) early this year and I assumed office on the first of April 2019 as the CEO of NOSDRA. Operating from a terrain that is very familiar as a former Director of the Office Assessment before I retired. I understand oil pollution issues and how we relate with the oil companies. I can tell you that there are quite a number of issues that we need to really bring up to the oil industry operators and as well as to the media when it comes to how issues of oil pollution are being reported in Nigeria. This is also to help you and the general public know how NOSDRA responds to some of these issues especially when we talk of oil pollution.
Actually, oil pollution will result from a number of causes. We can have equipment failure which may be due to pollution of pipelines or in the course of maintenance of the oil facilities themselves. It could be within the pipelines and could be any of other ancillary parts like any repairs at the manifold or any repairs along the trunklines. So, we normally have these oil spills here. Then, in many of the cases, and this is not by the way of exaggeration, this is by facts and figures many of the cases are as a result of what we term third party interference, or to put better ‘sabotage’. And when we say third party interference, this means somebody other than the owner of the asset has gone to tamper with the asset of the oil company. In this case, we see people going in there, install valves on pipelines carrying crude or any petroleum products and once they pick whatever they want to pick from the pipeline, they leave the valve open until it is known by us or by communities nearby, or by the oil companies themselves through low pressure from their metering stations and then response is quickly organized to put a stop to pollution.
When this is done, there are measures put in place. First of all is to stop the source of leakage by shutting down . Then, the firm will try to contain the spread and begin to recover, when they finish the recovery, they can now clean-up. The clean-up can be done depending on the level of risk that it poses to the communities, human lives, plant and animals. You can go further after clean-up by way of remediation.We are always following this process. You see that in recent, especially in the last three months; April, May and June of 2019, we had a number of oil spillages both crude as well as petroleum products. We have some people cut a 24 inches pipeline that takes oil to Bonny Oil and Gas Export terminal and resultantly, there was fire. It took the oil companies some time to put off this fire.
Imagine, this is a 24 inches diametre pipeline carrying crude from flow station onshore to Bonny oil and gas export terminal. Such a pipeline was damaged under the high pressure and set it on fire. We have such case, which is one.
We have the case of Ojumole fire incident, that was a wellhead that was vandalized. This is a wellhead that had been capped before by the oil company. I personally have visited this place before in the past, sometimes, in 2018. And when we visited that place, it was as a result of vandalism. A section of the pipeline about one metre was cut, and taken away. It took us a number of weeks to engage the communities and the oil company to find a final solution to that problem at that time. I recalled some amount of money was spent in the cleanup. Because it was sabotage, it was not liable for compensation and that is the law.
Section 11 sub-section 5(c) of the oil pipeline tells you that you will pay for compensation where there is any damage to any asset by third party as a result of oil pollution. But the oil firm will not pay if it was as a result of sabotage, that is third party interference. So, that time, it was cleaned up.
As a matter of fact, after that one, this latest one happened. Unfortunately, people complained about gas flaring when a well head catches fire, of course we have layers of water, oil and on the top you have gas. When that incident happened and it caught fire, you find that there is gas supplying the fire. We had a near experience before, operated by Chevron precisely January 16, 2012. There was a real collapse and there was fire right in the middle of water at Kurama 1. In 2016 again I was there, it took 46 days before that fire could be put off because until we were able to drill another well to cut off the supply of gas; that was what happened in Ojumole. You see people going to TV, papers and write all sorts of things. They write like that because they do not understand the processes, what it takes when somebody goes just like the adage that says when you take a match and light it on the bush. You know the beginning but you do not know the end. That was exactly what happened in the case of Ojumole. When the miscreants went and tamper with a wellhead and caught fire, of course, it takes time. When we went there sometimes in 2008-2009, we made repeated visit to Lagos, the headquarters of Chevron along with the community members to have a final solution to what happened at that time.
I remember when we went to that place, we took a long route from Igbokoda to Ojumole. From Ojumole to the point where that incident happened, we could not go with boat, we had to take a canoe that is paddled because it is a very narrow stretch of water. In some places we had to bend inside the canoe.When the thing caught fire, we need the rig to get there to drill to be able to cut off the fire that was burning. That was underscored the fact that the company had to do dredging. The dredging is not a day affair to dredge the swamp because dredging sand is different from dredging swamp. It is more difficult to dredge in swamp than to dredge in sand from the water.
(Cut in ); They had to wait for dry season?
No, they had to dredge to gain access to push the heavy equipment into that place to have access for drilling and cutting off the gas. That was what just got completed about five days ago. Right now, the fire is off. We have to station an officer from our Akure zonal office permanently to be on the field with the people working there so that he can give us update on all activities taking place on daily basis. This morning, July 4, 2019, I have spoken to the Head, Akure zonal office, and he informed me toady too that the Ondo State Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources is trying to put up a committee to go and do on the spot assessment. Of course, we are always on site in our own case. We need to wait and get everything now that fire is put off. We have done Joint Investigation Visit (JIV), everybody signed, we signed, and the communities signed but the representative of the Ondo State Ministry of Environment did not sign.
Once the other has signed, we have had our Joint Investigation (JIV). Of course, we are the lead agency and we have done what we need to do. So, now that the fire is put off, we are going back again, and we will send more officers to go back to join the officer that is resident with them. This is to make sure that they capture the situation as at today July 4, 2019. Then, we put up our reports and forward it to the ministry headquarters and then integrate the ministry in our next line of action. However, our next line of action is to do a post impact assessment of the place. Of course, it is going to be of more the remnant of wax that resulted to a little spill because since the fire was burning, it was burning gas and any oil that is around it which need to be cleaned up along with the soot that will settle on the vegetation around that place.
Also, we are approaching the peak of the raining season. So the rain, that is nature, will help us to do a lot of natural attenuation by washing down the soot from the plant that will be there. If it had been in dry season, the soot will be rested on the plant and it will also cause some negative impacts on the plant. This is because with the soot on the leaves, photosynthesis that they need to breathe and live as plant and produce foods or whatever they need to produce will not be available. So, these are some of the things that we have when people tamper with oil facilities and it is becoming rampant on Ojumole side.
We also have another incident of oil pollution in Konkon, Rivers State which is as a result of vandalism on oil facilities. These are things I think must be reported by the newsmen but again it is neither here nor there. It is good to report but you take a second look at it, do you think it is patriotic for a country to have its citizen tampering with the source of the nations’ wealth and we report it to the world, how does it sound, it sounds very absurd for a Nigerian to install valves on a pipeline carrying national asset to steal petroleum products for personal use.
These are things we need to think about and see how we find a lasting solution to this, not minding the fact that the activities of these few miscreants do a lot of damage to our economy. This is because both the pipelines carrying crude oil and petroleum products are assets that the nation gets revenue from. So, tampering with it means short-changing by the quantum that you remove of what ordinarily should flow and Nigeria should earn money from be it crude or petroleum product.
After siphoning the oil, leaving the verve there flowing, you are causing damages into the environment and also risking the health and lives of our people. In many of these places, there are lives lost. For instance lifes were lost in Konkon when some pupils going to schools got burnt in Konkon, Rivers State.
These things were captured by our officers who were on site during the Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) which comprises the owner of the asset, the communities and the other regulators.
How do we protect our property?
When it comes to protection, you see, go to NNPC, they will tell you how much it pays. Of course you are aware when the last President said they released so much money to the people in the oil producing areas to protect pipelines. The same people are still being paid to look after the pipeline for them.
In Saudi Arabia, in Texas, and in other places you rarely not find people going to run valves on their National pipelines. Is it ghost who are causing these vandalisms? It is done by Nigerians. Here in Nigeria we have Joint Ventures, we have Production Sharing Contract (PSC). We have Joint Ventures with companies like Chevron, Shell, Exxon Mobil and Total. Looking at these things, when you now go and vandalise the assets of these companies, you are vandalizing your own property, because whosoever has majority share is the owner. So, we are vandalizing our own properties as Nigerians and that is why we need to do a lot of sensitization. A lot of lives have been lost to these incidents and there is hardly a week in which there won’t be tanker accidents on Nigerian roads and spillage leading to death.
- To be continued on tuesday.