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Agip Keeps Mum As Bayelsa Community Groans Under Gas Leak Efforts

Some members of the Ogboibiri community in Southern Ijaw local government area of Bayelsa have criticized the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) for what one of them described as “criminal indifference” to a gas leakage that sacked the community last Friday. Agip is the Nigerian corporate name for the Italian energy firm, Eni.

Community members told SaharaReporters that a gas leak from Well 9 located within Agip’s oil field in the area caused a stampede and led to the mass exodus of residents of the community on June 14.

“What Agip did amounts to criminal abdication of its corporate responsibility,” said a source from the community who is a lawyer. “We know that the oil firm evacuated its workers from the well head when the leakage started on June 13. Their workers were moved to a safe location at one of the firm’s flow stations within the community, but the company left members of the community to contend with the hazardous emission.”

The area has been cordoned off by a detachment of the Joint Task Force, while residents of the community were barred from using the access road that leads to their farmlands.

Yellow Bosin, a female farmer in the community, said that she was turned back by soldiers attached to guard the oil facility when she attempted to go to her farm on Monday.

“After I returned, I wanted to go to my farm to harvest my ripe plantain but the soldiers stopped me,” she disclosed. Ms. Bosin added: “I told them that I was hungry and needed to harvest from my farm but they refused and threatened to beat me up.”

Julius Christopher, a youth leader in Ogboibiri, said that the community had made fruitless efforts to persuade officials of the oil firm to respond to the incident. He added that members of the community had undergone grave hardship as they inhaled the toxic gas emitted from the well for a prolonged period. According to him, some members of the community who fled are yet to return even though others have returned following the stoppage of the leak.

“It is very unfortunate and sad that since this incident happened, Agip has taken the community for granted and has not responded in any way to this emergency,” said Mr. Christopher, adding that some of the victims had been hospitalized.

“We appeal to the federal and Bayelsa governments to prevail on the management of the oil firm to respond and bring relief to this community,” he said. The youth leader added: “We have passed through a lot of shock and trauma.”

A security operative, who refused to give his name because he was not authorized to speak, said the oil firm had yet to finish fixing the fault that led to the leakage. “That’s why there’s still restriction of movement by soldiers,” he explained.

SaharaReporters gathered that some members of the community were unhappy with the 10-member Community Development Committee. “The members of the committee have been holding secret meetings with Agip officials on the recent development, but they have sidelined the community they are supposed to represent,” said an outraged resident of the area. Meanwhile, no Agip official responded to our request for comments.

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