The Bayelsa Government Technical Committee on the November 5 oil leak at Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29 in Nembe on Sunday faulted claims that the leak was caused by sabotage.
OML 29 oil block is operated by Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company, an indigenous oil firm that acquired the asset for about $2.4 billion, following the 2015 divestment by supermajor, Shell.
The regulatory agencies investigating the incident had on Dec. 22 attributed the spill to sabotage while the Bayelsa committee claimed the spill was due to equipment failure. The regulators are the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC).
Mr Biriyai Dambo, Chairman, Technical Committee in a statement dismissed the claim and faulted the procedures adopted in arriving at the conclusions.
Dambo, who is also the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Bayelsa, said that the divergent views held by the parties could not be resolved and so rendered the Joint Investigative Visit (JIV) inconclusive.
The JIV is a statutory probe that follows every reported leak incident to unravel the cause and volume of crude discharged into the environment.
The JIV is usually convened by the operator of the leak facility and it comprises representatives of the oil firm, affected communities, regulators and the state Ministry of Environment.
Dambo noted that the components and accessories of the wellhead that were to be inspected had been removed and replaced, which amounted to tampering with and concealing the equipment and evidence.
According to the statement, there have been similar incidents of oil spillage, although of lesser magnitude, from the same Santa Barbara Wellhead 1 in OML 29 in 2018 and 2019, which Aiteo had previously admitted.