By Tife Owolabi
YENAGOA, Nigeria – Oil has been spilling from a well owned by Nigeria’s Aiteo Eastern E&P and state-run NNPC for two weeks in southern Nigeria, local residents and politicians said on Friday, saying it threatened the environment and local economy.
Aiteo said on Nov. 9 an “extremely high order” oil spill had started on Nov. 5 and that the pressure on the wellhead meant it was impossible to halt it immediately. It had no immediate comment on Friday but said a new statement was being prepared.
NNPC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Local residents shared videos with Reuters from Nov. 13 and Nov. 14 showing oil spewing from the wellhead in the Nembe area of the Delta, one of the most polluted places on earth after decades of spills that have hurt farming and fishing.
They said the oil was still gushing out on Friday, two weeks after the initial spill.
“Governor Douye Diri is gravely concerned that if the high volume of crude being spill continuously is not stopped immediately, it will spread to many more communities and undermine the economic life of residents,” his spokesman said.
The spokesman also said in a statement that Aiteo had not yet taken “any concrete step” towards stemming the leak.
The well, which is not in production, was purchased from Royal Dutch Shell in 2015.
Aiteo previously said it had not determined the cause of the leak but did not rule out sabotage or an attempt to steal crude, both common in the restive, economically deprived area.
Community leader Nimibofa Degi told Reuters that Aiteo had ignored the community’s initial reports of the leak and said locals had said they could see corrosion in the wellhead casing.
“Rather than look inwards at their safety procedures for such high pressure wells they are pointing accusing fingers at innocent people,” he said.
(Reporting by Tife Owolabi in Yenagoa; Writing by Libby George; Editing by Edmund Blair)