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Awoye community fisherfolks lament loss of livelihood as Ororo fire rages

Fisherfolks in Awoye, Ondo State, have lamented the continuous burning of Ororo Well for over three years without attention from the government, which has led to the loss of livelihoods and displacement of many residents of the waterfront community.

Community folks from Awoye and Makoko during the session in Lagos

The fisherfolks shared their grief during a video documentary screening of the Ororo Well fire and media briefing organised by the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) on Monday, November 27, 2023, in Lagos.

Residents of Awoye in Ondo State and residents of Makoko, a waterfront community in Lagos, shared how they have suffered over time because the authorities have decided not to address their plight.

The fire outbreak occurred May 2020 on the Ororo-1 Well in Chevron’s operated Oil Mining Lease (OML) 95 off the coast of Awoye following a blowout from Grace-1 HWU, a hydraulic work over rig.

Speaking about the negative impacts of the Ororo Well fire, Mr. Temilorun Ajimisugbe explained that it has been difficult to fish on the water because of the fire and that fishermen have in most cases had to travel long distances before they could manage to get some fish.

Ajimisugbe explained how challenging it has been for individuals in the community to survive as they depend largely on fishing.

“We can no longer fish because there is fire burning on the water. It has been difficult for us to survive, and there is nobody that we can turn to for help,” he added.

He appealed to HOMEF to continue to engage with the government and relevant stakeholders to ensure that the necessary thing is done to ensure that normalcy is restored in Awoye.

Mrs. Taiwo Ilabiri explained that women who pick periwinkle can no longer pick and sell, adding that poverty is ravaging the Awoye community.

She appealed to the government to address the plight of women and intervene before the situation escalates.

Dr. Nnimmo Bassey, the Executive Director of HOMEF, said it was pathetic that the state government, the Federal Government and the oil company involved have chosen to be silent on the matter, even as the residents can barely eke out a living.

Bassey explained that “the fire is not just an eyesore in the ocean, it is not just killing the fishes and killing the aquatic ecosystem, it is also magnifying the problems of global warming because millions of tons of greenhouse gases are being released from that inferno into the atmosphere.

“The more climate change is promoted by incidence like that the more you’re having higher ocean temperatures, higher salinity of the ocean and some problems like sea level rise and more coastal erosion will occur.

“The fire is more than just a fire, it is eating the land of the people, destroying their houses, eating infrastructure, creating complex environmental problems and health issues for not just Awoye community and not for Nigerians living on the coastal line only, it is a global emergency, and we can’t afford to keep quiet about it.”

Mr. Akinbode Oluwafemi, the Executive Director of Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), explained that when there is oil spill, there are fundamental questions that should be answered, including “what caused it, who is responsible, who bears the brunt and then who bears the liability.

“Ororo well has been spilling for quite a while, we don’t need to know who caused it. The biggest question is why punish the community residents?

“The companies that are causing these problems should bear the infractions and it is important that government agencies hold the companies accountable in the interest of the community members that are affected,” he added.

The documentary was screened, with community members sharing their plight and calling on the government’s urgent intervention.

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