Before the discovery of oil in commercial quantity in Oloibiri community, Bayelsa State in the late 50s by the Royal Dutch Company, Shell, the people lived a life of contentment, depending on the treasures of their natural environment which earned them their daily means of livelihood.
Today, the community remain scarred with the brunts of oil exploration, bereft of basic amenities and perhaps remembered only for its pioneering role as the area where oil was first struck in commercial quantity in Nigeria. Oloibiri community, no doubt, portrays the dismal catastrophe of unguarded and incautious exploitation of natures energy reserve.
Oloibiri among several other affected communities in the Niger Delta has become case studies of oil pollution and environmental degradation among scholars.
A visit to some communities in Ogoni, Rivers State, such as Bodo, also reveals the sorry state of oil bearing communities. The adjoining creeks and mangrove habitation in the area are now extinct and the once thriving rural economy and communal living is displaced.
No thanks to reckless oil exploration activities which have brought colossal damage to the natural environment, depriving the people of their natural means of livelihood. The effects of these reckless conservation of natural energies are not farfetched.
Apart from the physical damage to the natural environment and pollution of the atmosphere, the people are forced out of their natural abode, to migrate into unaccustomed areas in search of livelihood that are mostly not found.
A former inhabitant of Kozo community, a coastal habitation in Bodo, Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State, Mr Peter Ledisi, who now lives in Bodo town, told The Tide that he was born in Kozo community and grew up in the area until the sad experience of oil pollution displaced his family.
Ledisi, who is 35 years old, said his parents took care of him and his siblings through the proceeds of fishing, but today he noted life has become so difficult for the family as their means of livelihood is destroyed.
“That place you see (Kozo community) used to be our home for the past decades, we grew up there and pursued life with happiness, we were contented with what nature provided for us through fishing, every growing child enjoying living there because it provided fun for us and filled our desire and passion for game and we also made money from it. Today, we are displaced out of our home by oil pollution, life is now a misery for us,” he lamented.
Another displaced inhabitant of the community, Miss Tornubari Sakpugi, also narrated her ordeal following the devastation of their natural settlement by oil pollution.
Sakpugi, a fish dealer, said her business has collapsed, as her customers can no longer go on their fishing expeditions due to pollutions of the rivers.
“I used to buy fish in higher quantity from fishermen who sojourn to the deep sea for a catch. The business helped me a lot and I was able to provide for my needs, but today things are very hard for me. It is a terrible experience to move out of a place where you earn your daily living to a place where survival is not certain as there is no alternative means of livelihood.
“We want the polluted rivers to be cleaned, so that we can return home. They are talking about UNEP report, but no action is foreseen. We are suffering; the government should do something to help us”.
At Kozo community, she said there was no visibly sign of life, but desolation. The sprawling creeks where the fishermen launched their daily expeditions were laden with thick layers of crude oil. The mangrove reserves that harboured sea food was completely burnt off, one would hardly believe that the settlement once hosted over four thousand inhabitants. Fishermen at some major water-fronts in Port Harcourt also have similar stories to tell.
Iyalla, a fisherman who resides at Ibadan water front in Port Harcourt told The Tide during a visit to the area, that fishing business is no longer lucrative compared to the past. Asked the reason for the sharp decline in the business, he said the rivers have been contaminated with spilled crude oil from bunkering activities.
According to him, years back, fishermen did not have to go to the deep sea before they were rewarded with good catch. But today, he said they have to paddle and wander up the sea amidst wreckages of boats and badges and sometimes return home with little or no catch.
He explained that illegal refining of crude oil and vandalisation of oil pipeline smear the rivers with wasted crude and floating dead sea creatures.
Experts have also identified the reckless exploration of energy resources as the major threats to the natural environment, especially aquatic life.
A Chemical Engineer, Dr Ujile Owajiogak, who spoke with The Tide in an interview in Port Harcourt, said the burning of our natural reserves especially through the “cooking of crude oil” puts the life of the present generation and that of posterity at risk.
The Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Rivers State University, disclosed that it takes over 50 years for a polluted site to regain its lost reserves. Using the experience of the civil war as example, the university teacher said, the bombing of oil facilities in the Niger Delta during the war left in its wake devastating effect on the creeks and coastal channels of the region.
He pointed out that after close to 50 years of the war, nothing has grown in the impacted sites and the flourishing mangrove forest is replaced with nypa palm that has no economic value.
“The indulgence of criminal elements in the cooking of crude oil is very destructive to our ecosystem and has health implication. Research has shown that illegal bunkering will increase cancer in the Niger Delta region. What is the sense in taking a few component of the products and wasting the rest on aquatic life? Our environment was preserved and bequeathed to us by our forebears, but today, we are destroying it. The oil, companies are not helping matters, as they flare gas and cause damage to the natural environment. There are serious health challenges in the region as the people are now endangered species, this is pathetic,” he declared.
In the view of an Environmental Sociologist, Dr Steve Wodu, human insensitivity to the protection of his natural environment has worsened problems of environmental degradation. To him, some of man’s action are tempered on crass ignorance or “deliberate obstinacy,” billed to ruin existence.
“Otherwise what would be the rationale behind indiscriminate burning of natural energy reserves or bad sanitation habits such as littering of wastes and lack of care of the natural surrounding,” he asked rhetorically.
Wodu posited that a new era of posterity can only blossom if we begin to treat our environment with some sanctity with which we treat our life.
Also commenting on the need to check indiscriminate exploitation of nature’s reserve, the Director Institute of Conflict and Gender Studies, University of Port Harcourt, Prof Fidelis Allen, said a blighted environment portrays the nakedness of our civilisation and turns man’s dream into despair.
Allen, who is also an environmental crusader called for a more holistic approach towards the restoration and preservation of the natural environment.
According to him, only through such holistic approach and sound environmental awareness campaign can the ethical violation of environmental rights be curtailed and sustainable environmental growth sustained.
He called on the oil companies operating in the Niger Delta region to always imbibe the tenets of international best practices in their operations and ensure that the natural environment is protected against gas flaring and oil spillages.
He described the Ogoni clean-up exercise as critical to the eventual remediation of other impacted sites in the Niger Delta communities and called on all affected stakeholders to expedite action to make the clean-up exercise a success.
Realising the importance of the natural environment, the American Novelist, Henry Beston warned: “Do not do dishonour to the earth lest you dishonour the spirit of man”. The implication of Beston’s warning is that by destroying his natural environment through unguarded conservation of its resources, man sets to consume himself in an inescapable catastrophe, the possibilities of which are too obvious to be ignored.
However, the production and consumption of energy is today a major indicator of modernisation process. Our modern civilisation is fuelled by the energy sector, particularly oil and gas and thus involves exploratory activities with attendant pollution problems and significant local and global implication. It is therefore suicidal to see that the very natural ingredients that nourish our lives are washed away in the name of technology or economic drive. It is left for us to heed to Beston’s warning or perish.
Explosion: Stakeholders Want Replacement Of Old Pipelines
As part of measures to avert further pipeline explosion in the Niger Delta, stakeholders in the region have called for the replacement of all obsolete oil pipelines in the area.
The views of the stakeholders were expressed during a random interview conducted by The Tide on the growing spate of pipeline explosions resulting in wastage of lives.
Speaking during the interview, President of a pro Niger Delta group, Niger Delta coalition Against Violence, (NDCAV), Comrade Lekia Christian said pipeline explosions in the Niger Delta and most recently the nasty experience at Komkom in Oyigbo Local Government Area in Rivers State were linked to leakages from broken pipelines that spilled out petroleum products.
He said people were tempted to stop the spilled crude and meet their waterlow.
“Pipeline explosion has become a recurrent event in the Niger Delta and lives have always been wasted in these sordid experiences. It is the responsibility of the Federal Government, through relevant institutions, to find a lasting solution to this prevalent issue. Most of the pipelines in the Niger Delta are old and need replacement; something has to be done as a matter of urgency to avert further disasters,” he said.
The NDCAV president also called for improved security and surveilance on the pipelines.
In his views, an environmental sociologist and lecturer in the University of Port Harcourt, Dr Steve Wodu, also blamed the sequence of pipeline explosions in the Niger Delta on obsolete facilities which, he said, constitute serious risk to the lives of the people of the host communities.
He said: “It’s unfortunate that most of the pipelines conveying crude oil in the Niger Delta are yet to be replaced despite the dilapidated status of the facilities. This is totally wrong and constitute big risk to the lives of the people. The NNPC and PPMC should embark on an overhaul of all oil pipeline facilities in the Niger Delta to address the issue of pipeline explosions in the area.
“The negligence of relevant institutions in maintenance of pipelines is an issue of critical concern as it affects the lives of the people negatively. This is a disservice and another worst form of injustice to the people of the Niger Delta.”
It could be recalled that the issue of pipeline explosions was also raised at the Senate plenary recently, following a motion by the Senator representing Rivers South East District, George Sekibo and three others following the recent explosion that claimed lives and properties at Oyigbo.
The Senate, in its ruling, urged the NNPC and PPMC and other relevant agencies in the oil and gas industry to find a lasting solution to the issue.
The Senate also called for a holistic review of all existing pipelines to ascertain the levels of functionalities.
By: Taneh Beemene
Rivers Community Shuts Down SPDC Flow Station
The people of Umudiaga Community in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State have shut down the Ahia flow station, operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) on behalf of its Joint Venture Partners.
The community, which expressed its discontent with Shell through a peaceful protest, also gave one week ultimatum to the company to give electricity to the community or have its operations grounded.
Addressing the protesting crowd at the Shell facilities located within the community, last Wednesday, the Community Development Committee (CDC) chairman, Barr Emeka Ogbugo, said the protest was an expression of the community’s disapproval of the company’s continuous negligence of the plight of Umudiaga people.
He said: “The community has suffered for over 50 years despite the presence of Shell in the area. Apart from the one kilometer road constructed by Shell since 1961, there is nothing to show in the community in terms of development.
“Shell gave us electricity that didn’t last for two years. We have a flow station that gathers oil from other communities, yet our community is highly neglected in infrastructural and human capital development”.
He explained that several letters had been written to Shell to address the issues of electricity in the community, but such requests were turned down.
The CDC chairman vowed that the Shell facilities would remain shut down until the community gets a positive response from the company and demanded that the community should be connected to the national grid, rather than being given light from the Shell flow station.
In his reaction, the youth leader, Comrade Daniel Akpelo Wosa, accused SPDC of marginalising the Umudiaga community, in terms of employment opportunities, scholarship and other social amenities.
The Umudiaga women leader, Comfort Chukwu, who also spoke during the protest, urged SPDC to improve on their community relations policies by giving the people a sense of belonging.
Efforts to get the reactions of the SPDC proved abortive as calls made to the company’s Corporate Affairs Manager were not successful.
By: Taneh Beemene
Marketers Blame Terminal Operators For Hike In Cooking Gas Price
The Nigerian Association of Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers (NALPGAM), has, blamed Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) terminal owners and off-takers for the recent hike in the price of cooking gas.
Prices of Liquefied Petroleum Gas, popularly called cooking gas, had gone up by more than 30 per cent, with customers in some parts of the country paying as much as N5, 500 for a 12.6kilograme cylinder of the gas. About a month ago, the price stood at about N2,800 – N3, 000 for the 12.6kg cylinder.
Executive Secretary of NALPGAM, Mr. Bassey Essien in a statement in Lagos last Friday, alleged that the activities of off-takers and terminal owners (where the gas was stored for sales to marketers) was responsible for the rise in the prices of the commodity.
“It becomes necessary to bring to the attention of users of cooking gas, stakeholders in the industry and the government the level of exploitation that currently subsists in the pricing of cooking gas by terminal owners and off-takers,” said Essien.
“The Federal Government approved the allocation of about 350,000 Metric Tonnes (MT) of gas per annum for local consumption through the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) company and this has been distributed through the terminals and off-takers to marketers who eventually distribute to end users.
“We noticed recently that gas delivered to terminals and off-takers, which was being sold at N3,200,000 per 20 MT a week ago suddenly jumped to between N4,000,000 and N4,300,000 per 20MT at the terminals, ” Essien alleged.
According to him, the decision of terminal operators to raise the price of the gas from their own end has seen Nigerians paying more in recent weeks that they did a month ago. The marketers, however, maintained that the price structure from the NLNG has not changed.
“We dissociate our association from exploitative acts of terminal owners. It is like taking the industry and stakeholders for granted to the detriment of the efforts of the Federal Government at deepening cooking gas utilisation in the country, which has been yielding positive results, ” Essien said.
Essien said that with this development, many Nigerians would go back to using kerosene and firewood which had attendant health effects.
“A filling station which was selling 300 litres of kerosene a week has seen its sales increased to about 6,000 litres because people who cannot afford gas due to the increment are going back to kerosene.
“This has so many negative effects on the economy, especially as food sellers would have to increase the prices of their food or reduce the quantity not to run at a loss,” he said.
Essien commended the NLNG for its efforts in supplying gas to Nigerians and urged the company to improve on its performance to deliver gas to other coastal terminals outside Lagos to reduce the inherent pressure on the terminals in the South West.
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