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Hosting oil facilities and its environmental challenges, the Baruwa experience

Hosting oil facilities and its environmental challenges, the Baruwa experience

Failure to deploy surveillance tools and lack of expeditious response from authorities may have escalated pipeline breaches in recent time in Lagos. The resultant effort is fire outbreaks and underground petroleum leakages.

Serial fire outbreaks have further complicated environmental challenges in some communities hosting high pressure petroleum products conveyor infrastructure in Lagos and Ogun states.

Host communities have expressed serious concerns over the new wave of vandalism of oil assets in recent times. Some chieftains of these communities have attributed the rise in the criminal act to the impotence of the contractor engaged by government to secure about 151 kilometers of pipelines stretching from Atlas Cove bypassing Baruwa a suburb of Lagos state to Mosimi in Ogun state.

LEADERSHIP, last week exclusively reported a serial fire outbursts on major petroleum products artery operated by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, in Lagos.

Oil theft along that corridor has remained unabated raising fundamental questions about alleged conspiracy between private security outfits engaged by government and the vandals in the  impermissible business.

Following Federal Government’s suspension of the contract it awarded to Topline Security, a private firm, for the protection of petroleum pipelines belongings to the NNPC, last year a new security firm, Pentagon has since taken charge of the security.

The Federal Government had in 2014 awarded the contract of securing pipelines belonging to the NNPC, to Topline, a private security firm. The move saw Topline Security monitoring the length of the pipeline from Atlas Cove in Lagos to Mosimi in Ogun but was the contract was terminated over allegations of petroleum theft against staff of the company by the Nigerian Navy (NN).

Following that revelation, the National Security Adviser (NSA) at a meeting with all the parties suspended the contract and directed that the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to take over the supervision in collaboration with the NN.

Our correspondence gathered that a portion of the pipeline in Baruwa, has recently been besieged by vandals who siphon petroleum products transported from the Atlas Cove to Mosimi and other parts of south west.

This criminal activity who also poses a serious security threat has forced the Baruwa community to send a Save-Our-Soul, SOS, letter to Lagos state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

In the letter, dated June 21, 2019, and signed by the Baale of the community, Alh. Halid Baruwa, a copy obtained by LEADERSHIP, the community raised serious security alarm, that the community is now constantly being terrorized by petrol thieves.

The letter partly reads, “Consequently, since May 14, 2019 we have been having series of vandalisation on Baruwa pipelines. Also, on 16 of June when the fire broke out all the relevant agencies were contacted the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps, the Police, the staff of Lagos state fire fighters, the staff of the federal Government Environment, representative of the PPMC were all on ground to quench the fire which lasted for about four days.

“We are very much concerned about security of life and property of the Baruwa community as a whole as we don not pray for any calamity to befall us”.

It was gathered that after a stakeholders meeting, which involved Baruwa community representatives, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps, NSCDC, Pipelines and Petroleum Marketing Company, PPMC, a subsidiary of the NNPC, and Pentagon Security, a private security company put in charge of the pipeline on Saturday June, 15, suspected vandals breached the facility the next day leading to outbreak of fire on Monday, June 17.

Narrating the incident to our Correspondent, the Baale of Baruwa, Chief Halid Baruwa, said, “We held a crucial meeting with other stakeholders after I reported several infringements on the pipeline.

“Between May and now, I can count about five cases of third party infringement on the pipeline which I promptly reported to the authorities. About two weeks ago, a truck used by the vandals got stuck in the muddy terrain and I informed the commandant of the Lagos State NSCDC, and he arrived the scene and we took photographs and they took the truck away.”

Continuing, he said, the PPMC representatives introduced the new security firm to the community and requested that we nominate ten young men to serve as security support personnel on a monthly pay of N35,000.

“I decided to nominate members of the O’odua Peoples Congress, and during the meeting of June 15, they reduced the number to eight, and when we got to the pipeline area we encountered a set of security men who advised that we should reschedule the resumption date of the new security operatives, and we left only to notice ball of smoke billowing from the pipeline on Monday June 17”.

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He said the PPMC and NSCDC were notified and the Lagos State fire service was mobilized to put off the fire.

According to him, the fire was finally quenched on Tuesday June 18, following the intervention of the state fire service.

However, again, the community was alerted of fresh fire emanating from the pipeline.

Chief Baruwa, told our Correspondent who visited the scene, that security situation in the area is now tense as the vandals are becoming more daring, because of plans initiated by the community to strengthen surveillance around the pipelines.

Confirming the incident, Mrs. Usman, the NSCDC officer in charge of pipeline security, Lagos state, told our Correspondent on phone that they got information about the fresh fire outbreak early the previous day morning and promptly detailed operatives to take charge of security and support efforts of the fire fighters.

“We were on ground from Monday up to Tuesday when the first incident was reported and the fire was successfully put off but we were surprised to get the information that a fresh occurrence has taken place.” she said.

When our Correspondent visited the scene a team of NNPC Surveillance unit, NSCDC operatives, officials of Pentagon security and National Oil Spill Detection And Response Agency, NOSDRA, team were there trying to assist in putting off the fire.

Mr. Andrew Omu, incident command officer, of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA Response Unit, LRU, told our Correspondent that they started battling the fire since 11am but by 2pm they ran out of water.

He explained further that due to muddy nature of the area their fire fighting trucks were stuck on the ground making it difficult to return to base and get more water and chemical to attack the raging fire.

Narrating the urge impact of the pipeline route on the community, one of the community leaders, professor Joseph Ogungbagbe, described the situation as unfortunate, saying that the community has been battling with the pipeline incidents since 2004.

Ogungbagbe, told our corresponence that the entire community suffers various ailments arising from contaminated water from petroleum products leakages.

According to him, the NNPC has refused to accept responsibility its aging pipeline has brought to the community. He identified one of them as the extensive underground water contamination.

He said, “Until the community wrote to the presidency which led to the TETFUND intervention which provide funding to carry out a research on the major causes of the contamination. It was a four year research work that eventually proved NNPC wrong, because from our findings they don’t want to stop pumping products so they would reject our position until the research proved that since 2004 after the first vandalism was reported that petrol had been leaking up till today.”

Meanwhile, it was gathered that the youths engaged by Pentagon to support its efforts have rejected the offer following the company’s inability to give them adequate training, and tools to work with.

Similarly, another stakeholders meeting held on Tuesday June 25, revealed lack of synergy between the community, the Security firm and NSCDC.

Our Correspondent gathered at the meeting that the community had raised serious security breaches following inability of the authorities to clear the pipelines Right-of-Way, ROW, which has aided vandals to operate successfully.

“We have asked the authorities to evacuate the ROW and eject intruders as well as demand that both sides of the pipelines encroached by thick forests be cleared, but non has been done, so since 1994, when we witnessed the first vandalisation, the incident has not abated, and between May and June we can count about five breaches resulting in fire incidents.” The Baale told the meeting.

It was also gathered that at the meeting the Lagos state Coordinator of Pentagon Security, Mr. Francis Akume, said the NNPC recently cleared the ROW all the way from Ibadan but Baruwa corridor has again been covered by bush.

He said the company has only about 30 motorcycles to cover Lagos and Ogun states, and it would be difficult to give Baruwa more than one motorcycle as demanded by the engaged youths.

Akume, said during the last last incident, he promptly alerted the NSCDC, to deploy armed personnel to support the community.

However, Abiodun Aderemi, general commander of the OPC, in Baruwa denied seeing the NSCDC members until the vandals escaped and subsequent explosion of the pipeline.

Uzoma Canice who represented the Lagos State Commander of the NSCDC, said he was going to investigate the unit that received the call from Pentagon following allegations that the NSCDC has largely been inactive and has not posted armed personnel to the area as agreed during the meeting on the 15th of June.

However, the engaged youth have abandoned the surveillance work and are demanding their payment from Pentagon, a situation that has raised palpable security concerns in the community.

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One of the officials in the community who confided in our Correspondent, alleged that Pentagon officials were behind some of the breaches, thus reinforcing similar claims by the Navy that Topline Security was allegedly involved in petroleum products theft.

 

Dealing With Underground Water Contamination

Interestingly, the research report supported by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund, to examine the depth of environmental hazard in Baruwa community has revealed the impact of weak regulations in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector, and deep environmental challenges of the community.

The research work titled, ‘Petroleum Hydrocarbon Contaminated Groundwater Remediation Using 21ST Century Technology’, was coordinated by Professor S. A. Ola, a Professor of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering at the Federal University of Technology Akure, FUTA and Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, ABUAD, alongside 5 other professors.

The research project, examined the extent to which petroleum products spill has damaged the environment and causing groundwater contamination of a Lagos community, known as Baruwa for over twenty years.

The NRF programme is one of the major intervention programmes of the Fund that is domiciled under the Education Support Services Department and is meant to support cutting edge research proposals that will significantly contribute to national development.

Speaking specifically on the Baruwa intervention, Baffa said, “Regarding the research work for which we are gathered here today, it is pertinent to state that this workshop has come at such an auspicious time when solutions are in high demand for the ever-rampant occurrences of oil spillage resulting in contamination of water that could easily have been utilized for domestic consumption and agriculture, but which has not been possible.

This has been a major issue in the Niger Delta and other oil-producing regions of the country, including Lagos, the location of this research work. Discoveries made through researches such as this is apt and commendable, and if adjudged successful and credible, governments at both the Federal and State levels should do everything possible to adopt and deploy the solution on a large scale through supportive funding. It will go a long way at improving the quality of life and alleviating the sufferings of the people in these areas. It is my sincere expectation that this workshop will not only reveal solutions to the petroleum-contaminated water sources in our region of the world but will be sustainable and deployed on large scale over time”.

 

Regulatory Challenges

The Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR which regulates the oil and gas industry, at the workshop admitted the agency is currently challenged and overstretched.

The immediate past Director of the DPR, Mr. Mordecai Ladan, in his presentation titled, Oil Pollution Abatement; Nigerian Perspective, Past, Present & Future’ observed that the country’s oil and gas has grown significantly over recent years, making it important for the sector to implement serious changes in the way it does business.

Ladan represented by Musa Zagi, said the Industry has had a chequered past evidenced by high profile issues like Shell tank failure of 1978 and 1979, Texaco Funiwa-5 oil well blow out of 1980, and Bonga oil spill in 2012 and Funiwa oil and gas blow out in 2014.

According to the former Director, companies in the Sector have been fingered in major environmental and human rights controversies in the Niger Delta region. He listed such to include pollution of water bodies in Ogoni land in the 1990s leading to tensions with local citizens of the Ogoni region.

He stressed however that as oil and gas production and exploration gained traction in Nigeria and became major foreign exchange earner, there is the need to ensure that oil and gas companies implement good oil field practices to help enhance the sustainability of the industry and most importantly manage the attendant environmental footprint.

Ladan lamented that with the spread of exploration and production both on offshore and onshore the DPR is thinly stretched, adding, “Since the Industry is far from attaining a ‘self regulatory’ status, virtually all activities require regulator presence which presently is overwhelming”.culled from leadership.ng

 

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