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Agip suspends operations in Bayelsa over Oil theft

By The Citizen

Italian oil firm, Eni, says it has shut down its activities in the swamp area oil fields in Bayelsa State, from which it produced about 40,000 barrels of crude oil daily, over a growing wave of illegal oil bunkering.

It said in a statement that it was losing about 7,000 barrels of its crude production daily to oil thieves in Bayelsa, a development the firm described as unsustainable, necessitating the shutdown.

Eni, which operates in the country as Nigeria Agip Oil Company, said it authorised the suspension of operations on March 22 and declared force majeure on its oil output from the facility.

Force majeure is a legal notice that absolves an oil firm of liability for failure to meet supply obligations to crude buyers due to circumstances beyond the firm's control.

On March 3, the Ikarama community in Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State reported a fresh oil spill at the Taylor creek oil well, which is being operated by NAOC.

That followed an earlier oil spill, which began on February 20 at NAOC's pipeline network in neighbouring Kalaba community in Yenagoa.

The statement by the firm attributed the frequent spills to oil theft by vandals, adding that it had decided to shut down to prevent further damage to the environment.

'Eni confirms that during the night between 21 and 22 March, the company has declared force majeure and ordered the closure of its onshore activities in the Swamp Area, located in the Bayelsa State in Nigeria,' it said in the statement.

It said the decision was made due to the intensified bunkering, consisting in the sabotage of pipelines and the theft of crude oil, which has recently reached unsustainable levels regarding both personal safety and damage to the environment.

'Sustainability is for Eni a priority in Nigeria, as in all the countries in which it operates. Eni has always promoted and carried out in the country several social and environmental initiatives in co-operation with national and local authorities,' it said.

It will be recalled Shell Petroleum Development Company, Nigeria's largest oil producer, had similarly threatened to shut its Nembe Trunk line because of rising incidents of oil theft through its pipeline network in Bayelsa.

The Managing Director, SPDC, Mr. Mutiu Sumonu, had on March 4, 2013, urged the Joint Task Force to step up its activities to reduce oil theft, which currently stands at about 60,000 barrels per day.