The Niger Delta remains one of the most polluted places in the world no thanks to the recurring oil spills which have continued regularly at several locations in the region. In June 2023, two oil spills ravaged Aleto and Eteo communities in Eleme Local Government of Rivers State which crippled farming and fishing activities in the area.
Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) and members of Oilwatch Nigeria paid visits to the two scenes on Wednesday, August 23, 2023, for an on-the-spot assessment to ascertain the level of response and possible cleanup of the affected environment but met the environment still in a sorry situation.
While some amount of work was ongoing at Aleto, no response was in sight for the Eteo community, where residents complained that no Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) has been done by the polluting company, NPDC, to ascertain the cause and extent of damage done to the environment.
At Aleto where a JIV was carried out, community people are worried that the report is yet to be released.
The Executive Director of HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey, when speaking on-site, expressed displeasure that the oil companies are neither decommissioning their aged infrastructure nor ensuring that their facilities are in good working condition.
He regretted that, rather than remediating the harm caused by their activities, more investments are being made by the oil companies to expand the areas of threat.
Bassey further stated that it is regrettable that two months after the spill occurred, the companies have yet to respond and interface with the communities in any meaningful way.
“It was heartbreaking listening to the lamentation of the community women who now have no source of potable water and cannot process their cassava, a major staple due to the pollution of their stream. The insensitivity of the polluters and regulatory agencies is appalling. These atrocious incidents are also compounding the work of HYPREP. While the agency is working to clean some areas, these polluting incidents are threatening to erase their efforts,” said Bassey.
During the site visits, coordinator, Peoples Advancement Centre (PAC) and member, Oilwatch Nigeria, Celestine Akpobari called on NOSDRA and other relevant agencies of government to do the needful and send relief materials to the starving people immediately.
“It is sad and very embarrassing that a spill of the magnitude at Eteo would happen in very close proximity to human habitation and NPDC and the government of Nigeria carry on as if nothing has happened to the people. It is worse that the spill has affected the community’s only source of drinking water. It is not enough to just sneak in at night to cap clamp the pipe, the right thing must be done,” Akpobari said.
While receiving the team of CSOs who visited his palace, His Royal Highness Emere Emmanuel T. Akobe, the Paramount ruler of Eteo community, expressed shock over the attitude of the NPDC, saying: “Our beautiful stream is dead, My people don’t deserve this type of treatment and after we have brought the notice of the National Assembly, there is still no response from them, and my people continue to suffer the impact of the spill.”
Community youth, Gift Nwagbalor, who was directly affected, lamented that the community had made several attempts to get the attention of NOSDRA to the spill site with a series of letters written demanding for the JIV to be done.
“Sadly, no response from the regulatory agency. “Our women can no longer get the periwinkles that they used to pick for their businesses again and the youths cannot fish in the contaminated stream and ponds,” he said.
A visit to the spill site confirmed his summation. While wading through the polluted stream and examining highly contaminated ponds in the vicinity, community leaders, mentioned that NPDC clamped the leaking pipe at night soon after the spill was reported but has not returned to clean up the environment.
HOMEF reiterates that Aleto and Eteo communities and the entire Niger Delta must not be treated like disposable or sacrifice zones for profit-seeking endeavors.
“NOSDRA should be more proactive in meeting the challenging situations of oil spills in the region, while the polluting companies should urgently halt their polluting activities, clean up their spills, and pay compensation to affected individuals and communities.”
The CSOs also demanded that oil companies decommission all aged pipelines and facilities in the region in line with UNEP recommendations in the assessment of the Ogoni environment.