N/Delta group says concerns over safety of rig in Bayelsa being addressed

 A Niger Delta group, the Ifalibobou Revolutionary Movement (IRM) says safety concerns over the state of an oil rig deployed to oilfields at Koluama coastal communities in Bayelsa are being addressed.

The group said that efforts were being made by leadership of the Koluama communities Rural Development Board to respond to their concerns and explain recent developments in the area.

The group had on May 7 issued an ultimatum to First Exploration and Petroleum Development Company (First E&P) to clarify the safety records of the rig within 72 hours to avoid a repeat of the 2012 rig disaster in the area.

It demanded that failure to show proof of integrity of the facility, the rig should leave the territorial waters of Bayelsa in Southern Ijaw and Brass Local Government Areas of Bayelsa.

First E&P, an indigenous oil firm in 2015, acquired Oil Mining Lease (OML) 83 and OML 85 oilfields when Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) divested its 40 per cent interests in the oil blocs to become its operator.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that a rig blow out in January 2012 at Chevron’s oilfield in the area resulted to a fire that burnt out the KS Endeavor rig in 48 days.

The affected coastal are Koluama 1&2, Ekeni, Foropa, Fish Town, Ezetu and Sangana, (KEFFES)

The group had expressed fears over the safety of the KEFFES Cluster Communities where the oil rig deployed at First E&P oilfield is stationed.

A statement by the leader of IRM, Joseph Sese on Sunday, said the withdrawal of the quit order followed the intervention of “critical stakeholders in the oil and gas industry”.

“We are constrained to announce the withdrawal of the 72 hours ultimatum to First Exploration and Petroleum Development Company on the 7th May 2019.

“Having reviewed all circumstances surrounding the ultimatum and, for the intervention of critical stakeholders in the Oil and Gas Industry, we have no better reason than to diffuse the ultimatum.

“This is to pave way for addressing the issues raised therein.

“We enjoin the First Exploration and Petroleum Development Company and other partners in the operation like Yinson to be frontally involved in seeing to the issues of our concern.

“This is because all issues at stake border on the fundamental existence of the people of KEFFES Region,” the statement said.

In a reaction, Mr Mathew Sele-Epri, Chairman, KEFFES Rural Development Foundation, said the leadership had listened to the group and explained things as they were.

Sele-Epri, noted that the group was misinformed, adding that the community leadership was in a transparent relationship with First E&P guided by a formal agreement enshrined in Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU).

Sele-Epri described the allegations by Sese as false and unfounded as the company had established a mutually beneficial relationship with the KEFFES communities for over three years.

“These allegations are completely false because First Exploration and Production has an existing relationship with KEFFES Rural Development Foundation which I am privileged to lead.

“We signed a Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) in August 2018 and it is being implemented.

“it is also false that the community is not aware of the deployment of the rig, the community was duly informed before the rig arrived.

“We negotiated and got 18 employment slots for the communities and three people from Foropa where Sese hails from are currently working on the rig and the allegation on the safety of the rig is spurious.

“There is no form of doubt on the integrity of the rig because the company has been working with the regulators through the stages of the field development and we believe the regulators have the expertise to police the industry.

“The claims on EIA is also untrue; we in the community fully participated in the EIA conducted by Chevron before the divestment and when First E&P took over, they have done another EIA.

“As leaders, it is our role to represent the interests of our communities and sensitise the people and enlighten them on what is going on and we have done so to that group and they withdrew the threat,” Sele-Epri said. (NAN)

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