Nigeria's Aiteo reports 'extremely high order' oil spill from well

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YENAGOA, Nigeria, Nov 10 (Reuters) - Nigeria's Aiteo Eastern E&P has reported an "extremely high order" oil spill from a jointly-owned well in the Niger Delta and has had to abort immediate efforts to control the leak due to the pressure emanating from the well head.

Local environment group Environmental Rights Action said the latest spill in Bayelsa State was yet another incident that would devastate the marine ecosystem on which most fishing depended.

The well, which is not in production, is jointly owned by Aiteo and state oil firm NNPC.

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The leak was discovered last Friday. Its cause was yet to be determined but Aiteo did not rule out crude oil theft leaks and sabotage.

Oil spills, sometimes due to vandalism or corrosion, are common in the Niger Delta, a vast maze of creeks and mangrove swamps criss-crossed by pipelines and blighted by poverty, pollution, oil-fuelled corruption and violence.

"The magnitude of this incident is of an extremely high order. Immediate efforts to control the leak were aborted due to the high pressure emanating from the well head," Aiteo said in a statement late on Tuesday.

In Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil producer, oil spills have had a catastrophic impact on communities where people have no other water supply than creeks and rely on farming and fishing.

Aiteo said it reported the incident to regulators and mobilised control specialists to close the leak.

A spokesman for the environment ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"No matter the cause of incident the facility owner ought to have stopped it and initiated steps to contain and clean up promptly," Alagoa Morris, Environmental Rights Action's field officer in the Delta said.

The well is part of assets that Aiteo purchased from Royal Dutch Shell in 2015, company spokesman Ndiana Matthew said.

Oil companies in Nigeria have run into problems trying to clean up spills, sometimes because of obstruction and even violence by local gangs seeking to extract bigger payouts, or to obtain clean-up contracts.

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Additional reporting by Camillus Eboh in Abuja; Writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Alison Williams and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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