From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva has visited Opu Nembe to assess the level of damage caused Oil Mining License(OML), 29 oil spillage at Santa Barbara Oil field with an assurance to the people that President Muhammadu Buhari is on the side of the people and shares their concern.
President Buhari, who is the Minister of Petroleum had on Tuesday broken his silence over the ravaging oil spill expressing worry on the level of destruction and gave Sylva the marching order to visit the site to ascertain the true position of things.
The oil well is one of the yet to be decommissioned oil wells inherited by Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company (AEEPCO), from Shell Petroleum Development Company(SPDC).
Sylva who landed in Nembe in a helicopter was accompanied by the federal representative for Nembe/ Brass Federal constituency, Hon Israel Sunny- Goli and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Nigerian Petroluem Upstream Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), Mr Gbenga Komolafe.
In a brief interview, Sylva declared that President Buhari is feeling the pains of the people.
“It is a very sad development but these things happen. They are operational hazards of the business. Mr President is very concerned personally himself and that is why he asks us his team to come and inspect and make sure that the appropriate action is taken to ameliorate the situation.
“It is not just me that feels their pain, Mr President feels their pain and that is why he personally instructed me and the CEO of the Upstream Regulatory Authority to come and actually assess the situation and take appropriate actions to ensure the people are taken care of.”
From the Nembe Jetty, Sylva and his entourage with military escort proceeded on a 30 minutes boat ride to the Santa Barbara Oil field. However for safety concerns, the entourage had to stop within one kilometre to the leaking well head to assess the spill situation from a drone picture.
Speaking in an interview after assessing the situation, Sylva reiterated President’s Buhari’s support for the people and commended their peaceful disposition.
He expressed satisfaction with the efforts being made by Aiteo to contain the spill and stop it completely.
“The President is very concerned with what is happening. You know what we are doing as a government in Ogoni. We don’t want that to happen in Nembe. It is an accident and nobody can stop an accident. But when an accident happens, we also want to see that steps are taken to correct things. As sent by the President, we have gone to the site and we can see that the company is making reasonable efforts to contain the spill. The company has assured that the spill would be contained. They have given us a commitment of two days to stop the spill.
“We would like to use this opportunity to thank the community for being peaceful and not taking laws into their hands. We are quite happy that they took this disposition. Mr President is always on the side of the people. We are not on the side of the company and we want to ensure the company does the right thing.”