Chairman of Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology, Dr. Bukola Saraki
By Ernest Chinwo
The Chairman of Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology, Dr. Bukola Saraki, has berated oil companies operating in the Niger Delta for taking their host communities for granted.
He accused the oil companies of fleecing their host communities, while presenting a wrong picture of community development to the world.
Saraki spoke Tuesday, when he led two other members of the committee, Senators Oluwaje Kunlere (Ondo South; LP) and Sadiq Yar’Adua (Katsina Central; CPC) to ascertain the level of environmental devastation of Egita community in Ogba-Egbema-Ndoni Local Government and Edageberi-Betterland, Joinkrama in Ahoada West Local Government area of Rivers State.
After the inspection of impacted areas in Egita, a visibly angry Saraki noted that the economic life of the people had been dislocated following the gas eruption from facilities owned by Total E & P Nigeria Plc last April.
He expressed disappointment that the while the company had posted signposts across the farmland urging the people not to use the area again, it had neither apologised to the people for deceiving them for decades that the company was not drilling in the area nor paid the people any compensation.
“Today, we have seen things for ourselves. Nobody can deceive us again. Things must change,” he said.
At Edageberi-Betterland, Saraki also blamed the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria for neglecting the community and not properly cleaning up the area after spills that have been happening in the area for decades.
“There must be a change. Enough is enough of neglect of our communities. Operations of international oil companies have brought untold hardship to our people. What have they (oil companies) done to ameliorate the sufferings of our people? Has the discovery of oil now a curse to our people?” he queried.
He accused the oil companies of taking advantage of lack of strict laws in the country to treat Nigerians with levity and said the National Assembly would soon take care of the lapses in the law.
However, the journey to Edageberi-Betterland was nearly marred by the flood which has sacked several Rivers State Communities and made the only road to the community almost impassable.
THISDAY gathered that over 1,000 persons have been displaced from their homes by the flood occasioned by the over-flowing of Orashi River in Rivers State.
The most affected are Mbiama, Akinima, and the four Joinkrama communities (including Edageberi-Betterland) in Ahoada-West local government area as well as Ndoni in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government area of the state.
Many families were seen packing out of their houses, most of which had been submerged.
THISDAY also observed that farmers in the affected communities have begun early harvesting of their root crops, especially cassava and yam so as to avoid losing them to the flood.
An indigene of Edageberi-Betterland, Bonny Ulolo, said people of the area usually experience minor flooding every November as a result of the over-flow of Orashi River but that the present situation was unprecedented in the history of the communities.
Reacting on the situation, the Rivers State Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Nyema Weli, said he was shocked to see the flood as the state government was yet to be notified about the incident by the authorities of Ahoada West local government council.
Weli said: “I have asked the Permanent Secretary why noting was heard about the flood in communities in Ahoada West local government area. As we were coming to this place, I was wondering where people are staying since water have taken over their houses. I am not aware of this situation before now.”
He promised to reach-out to the representatives of the people of the area in the State Executive Council, the state House of Assembly, as well as the Chairman of the local government council, Mr. Awori Miller, to find a solution to the issue.
In his reaction, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment, Saraki, said he was saddened by the plight of the displaced persons and stated that the committee would make a formal request to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to assist the people.