Oil Spill: Rivers Community Laments Neglect by Govt, NNPCL

Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt

Indigenes of Eteo community in Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State have lamented the neglect by the federal government and the Nigerian National Petroleum Commission Limited (NNPCL), 11 months after its facility spilled crude oil in their land.

THISDAY recalled that on June 13, 2023, there was a reported spill along a pipeline operated by NNPCL carrying crude in Eteo community.

Speaking during a one-day farmers training on land restoration against land grabbing, organised by Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) yesterday at Eteo, a community leader, Gabriel Ollorini, lamented that the community is suffering badly from the pollution emanating from the spill.

Ollorini, who narrated how they noticed the spill, alleged that after about 11 months, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NODSRA) Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) has not been done in the area following the incident he said has destroyed their farmlands and other sources of livelihood.

He said: “On June 13, 2023, an illustrious son of this community, a fisher man, was returning from fishing and saw black crude on the water. He reported to the community and the chiefs directed the youths to go and see what was going on and it was discovered that it was oil spill.

“Then, we wrote to NOSDRA, House of Representatives, and state House of Assembly, and overnight we heard that the NNPC came with about 23 army personnel, shot at sight and sealed back the place.

“They refused to come and speak with the community or NODSRA. As I speak with you, NNPC has on contract security patrol here in the morning, afternoon and evening. So we ask, who destroyed the pipeline when they have their security.”

Ollorini continued: “Right now, most of our women who go fishing to train their children have lost that source of livelihood. All the farmlands within the area are polluted. Some persons who fetch the water to drink can no longer go to the river, they have resorted to buying water from those with deep borehole in the community.”

He, however, called on the government to conduct a proper investigation and cleanup of the environment to restore the people’s sources of livelihood.

“We are calling on the government to come and do a proper clean up. Restore the stream to its former state, bring out the result of the JIV so that our people can live well. We can’t breath well. If you sleep in this community for one night then you will see what I am telling you. You will know that what you are breathing is chemical. The air is polluted,” he exclaimed.

Speaking with journalists after the training, Programme Manager of HOMEF, Stephen Oduware, tackled NOSDRA for not ensuring a proper investigation on the land, saying that the people’s sources of livelihood have been destroyed because of the pollution on their land.

Oduware said: “Let’s put it on record that I think that NODSRA and all other government regulatory agencies have not done well by not carrying out a joint investigative visit to find out what actually happened.”

He explained that the monitoring training was organised so that the community members can monitor their environment, report effectively and carry out advocacy for justice to be done and served.

Also, a facilitator at the programme, Kentebe Ebiaridor, coordinator, Oilwatch International, said HOMEF is working with some communities to strengthen their capacities on environmental advocacy, monitoring and reporting.

On the pollution in Eteo, Ebiaridor said: “We think that it is a very sad situation because if the state-owned NNPC cannot respond immediately to claims of the community, then it’s something that we need to actually look at and understand in the wake of the current divestment that is currently going on. Because if we cannot hold our own local people accountable for atrocities and destruction they cause on the environment in local communities then it will be difficult for us to understand the processes of the divestment that is going on.”

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