Indigenous oil and gas outfit, Aiteo, has debunked claims that it denied the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) access to the scene of last weekend’s wellhead explosion in Bayelsa State.
Documents obtained by journalists reveal that the company filed a report to NOSDRA on March 1, 2019, within 24 hours of the incident as stipulated by the laws guiding the sector. A document referenced AEEPCo/PRD/2019/05 and signed by the Chief Operating Officer of Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company, Emmanuel Ukegbu reads: ‘’At early hour of today 01/03/19, we received a report from the Mile 1 community of a suspected explosion at Nembe Creek Well-7. Following which our operation ER team was triggered. Preliminary investigation suspects a possible explosion that resulted into fire at about 01.00 hours in the vicinity of Nembe Creek Well-7. By 01.30hrs, the fire had tapered down.’’
According to a source in the company, the claims by Francis Umeh, Head of NOSDRA’s Field Office in Bayelsa State, that the company is frustrating their efforts to access the site and it took too long to file a report are misleading and outrightly false. The source stated that the company had no authority to deny access to a governmental parastatal to a site controlled by the government. They added that the company not only informed NOSDRA but other relevant agencies including the Department of Petroleum Resources and the National Petroleum Investment Management Services.
The neutrality of NOSDRA was called to question by the source, who asked why the agency failed to mention the incidence report filed by Aiteo and the Joint Investigative Visit scheduled for Thursday, 7 March 2019. ‘’An agency of NOSDRA’s status should not have omitted our incidence report while addressing the press. It could have followed the lead of NNPC and narrated the original version of events rather than the version a certain group of people are interested in.’’
The source also decried the high-level of dubious reporting pervading the media. They lamented the commercialization of journalism and the willful propagation of untruth and half-truth, citing the evolvement of the story about a number of missing people from 100 to 50 and now, zero. ‘’Journalists need to wake up to their roles in the development of our society. It appears that some practitioners have sacrificed the doctrine of fair journalism on the altar of brown-envelopes and agenda chasing. It is obvious that detractors have enlisted certain members of the press in their campaign to impugn the integrity of the company.
More confounding is the proclivity of the international media to publish damaging reports without conducting thorough background checks. They latched on to the false narrative of missing people but lacked the professional integrity to acknowledge afterward that they were pawns in a grand scheme,‘’ they added.