In the Niger Delta region, mounting apprehension surrounds the proliferation of forsaken oil wells and dilapidated infrastructures left by multinational oil corporations. This predicament raises significant concerns about the potential health and environmental hazards faced by oil-producing communities.
In Akwa Ibom State, more than 32 oil wells are reportedly abandoned, situated in communities like Oko, Okoroette, and Utapete. Similarly, the onshore oilfield in Oloibiri, Bayelsa State, has been left dormant, holding approximately 21.26 million barrels of hydrocarbons.
Environmental expert Dr. Nninmo Bassey emphasizes the pressing need for the decommissioning and removal of aged well-heads, manifolds, flow stations, and pipelines scattered across the Niger Delta. He expresses worry over the neglect of these facilities by international oil companies (IOCs) and calls for their conscientious consideration of the environment and the well-being of local residents.
Bassey points out that these neglected structures pose threats to ecosystems, groundwater contamination, and human health, with Nigerian laws mandating their proper decommissioning according to international standards.
Bassey underscores the urgency of addressing what he deems “time bombs” already in the process of detonating, citing incidents like the Aiteo’s Nembe/Santa Barbara Well-1 blowout that occurred over 39 days, resulting in significant hydrocarbon spills. He also highlights the overlooked “Ororo-1 well Fire” in Ondo state and criticizes the federal government’s over-reliance on IOCs, blaming this dependence for the dysfunctional petroleum sector and fostering a culture of reckless corporate behavior among oil companies.
Bassey concludes by urging the government to scrutinize abandonment issues not only in the oil and gas sector but also in solid minerals, exemplified by abandoned Tin mines in Jos and Coal Mines in Enugu.