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Rotary Club urges remediation of Nigeria’s first oil-well community

The Rotary Club of Port Harcourt Eco Chapter has called for the remediation of Otuabagi Community hosting Oloibiri oilfields in Ogbia, Bayelsa State.

Otuabagi Community
Rotary Club members and Otuabagi Community stakeholders on a visit to the Oloibiri oilfields in Ogbia, Bayelsa State

The chapter President-elect, Mr Iniruo Wills, a former Commissioner for Environment in Bayelsa, made the call on Saturday, July 23, 2022, during the club’s engagement with stakeholders from the community.

Oloibiri is Nigeria’s historical community, where oil was first discovered in commercial quantity in 1956.

Wills said the meeting was intended to draw attention to the adverse environmental effects after oil production stopped in the community many decades ago.

He said that the club’s visit to Otuabagi was to take stock of the negative impact of oil exploration on the community and draw attention to the need for remediation.

He said that although oil exploration had stopped in the area over 30 years ago, residual oil leakages still polluted the environment whenever it rained.

Wills further said that the development was subjecting residents to untold hardships due to the lack of measures to mitigate leaks from the dry wells.

He, therefore, called on the Federal Government and oil industry executives to be responsive to the plight of oil-bearing communities, especially when the oil wells had dried up.

In a speech, a Public Health Physician, Dr Bieye Briggs, said that residents complained that crude still oozed out intermittently from the wellheads to pollute their environment.

Briggs said the people were in great danger, adding that aquatic lives, including fishes and shrimps, were being destroyed by oil.

“Those hydrocarbons discharged have been concentrated within the aquatic space and contaminate the fauna and flora and they become poisonous to human lives.

“That is why within a period of 10 years to 15 years you begin to see cancer, kidney diseases, liver problems, lungs and respiratory disorders because of the oil pollution in the environment,” he said.

Briggs also said that the residual oil leakages also affected the underground waters, which the people also depended on.

He said that the community also reported that they often found oily sediments floating on their stream.

Also, a former President of the club, Mrs Emem Okon, said the community had been neglected for years by oil and gas companies.

The President PH plus-Eco Rotary, Mr Davies Okarevu, called on the people to join the club in order to contribute to the humanitarian endeavours for the betterment of society.

Okarevu said the club is about giving back to society and having a sense of accomplishment in contributing to human progress.

The Acting Chairman, Council of Chiefs, Otuobagi, Chief Joseph Erefa, regretted that the community had been neglected for decades and schemed out through oil politics.

Erefa also called on the Federal Government and oil firms to reconsider their attitude toward the community.

He described the area as the “goose that lays the golden egg” and urged the oil companies to provide social amenities to alleviate the sufferings of the people.

The club visited Oil 1 and 2, known as Oloibiri oilfields within Oil Mining Lease 29, previously operated by Shell Production Development Company (SPDC).

SPDC had in 2015 divested its interest in OML 29, which includes the 97-kilometre Nembe Creek Trunkline that links the Bonny Expirt Terminal to indegenous operator, Aiteo for $2.4 billion.

By Shedrack Frank

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