The Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) has called on Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL), the Government of Ondo State, the National Oil Spill Detection and Remediation Agency (NOSDRA), Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and other regulatory agencies to put out the fire in the communities in Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State.
In a statement made available to EnviroNews on Thursday, June 27, 2019, organization submitted: “The unending oil-well fire outbreak reportedly started on April 18, 2019 at Ojumola Well 1 in Ajegunle-Ikorigho, an oil- rich community and has spread to no fewer than five other oil wells belonging to Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL).
“CNL, after confirming the fire outbreak, claimed that the cause of the explosion was unknown and, from a joint venture investigation carried out on April 20, 2019, it was explained that the fire was due to third party interference. In other words, it was a result of sabotage or vandalisation by unknown culprits.
“Even with the impacts of the fire visibly seen in the affected communities, CNL claimed that there are no casualties and that no community has been impacted by the fire outbreak. They claimed to have conducted an overflight evaluation of the fire and also mobilised emergency responders to assess the site, contain the fire, and boom the area.
Nnimmo Bassey, HOMEF’s director, said: “These claims show the height of irresponsibility and impunity exhibited by CNL and its partners operating in communities across the Niger Delta region, as our investigation shows that nothing has been done to put off the fire and to alleviate the sufferings of the affected Ilaje communities. The fires are gradually spreading to other coastal communities in the state.”
Ola Judah, an Ilaje activist, stated: “The fire outbreak has caused unfortunate disaster to the communities. The people’s daily life has been affected, fish farming has been disrupted, there is no drinkable water as soot and spill cover the water ways. Dead fishes are found all over. Many people were rushed to hospitals’ emergency units due to the hazardous impact of the fire outbreak. We are not sure of the health of the people in the future. Chevron has been promising the communities to put off the fire but has not responded to their demands.”
HOMEF continued in the statement, “Ever since, the exploration operations of CNL in Ilaje began 40 years ago, the people have been suffering from pollution, environmental degradation and oppressions. Daily, they are faced with horrors and terrors posed by the oil companies operating in their communities.
“Fishing which is the major occupation of the people, is no longer profitable as the rivers and streams have all been polluted with oil. The people of Ilaje have nothing to show for the years of existence of CNL and other oil companies in their land, rather all they can testify of is the series of neglects and constant terrors posed by the operations of the oil corporations.
“On Sunday, July 26, 1998, the Ubale-Nla community woke up to be greeted by an oil slick in their river, which covered the entire stretch of the river and was advancing with its tide and flow. By the afternoon of the same day, the slick had spread to almost all canals, streams of neighbouring communities and to the Atlantic Ocean.
“The oil spillage caused great agony on the community people and over 3,260 animals died from drinking polluted water. Child labour was used to contain the spread of the spill in the communities and women were the most affected by the incidence. Even though the spill was reported to the Ilaje local government headquarters at Igbokoda the following day, Chevron did not contain the leakage till after seven days and even after containment, oil was still visible on the surface of the water in the communities affected.
“In May 2002, another incidence occurred at Chevron’s Wells A and B located between Ojumole and Ikorigho communities. Chevron ensured that the community people and environmental monitors were denied access to the area by using the dreaded mobile police to seal off the area.”
As a result of the impacts on the livelihood and wellbeing of the impacted communities, the Ilaje people have demanded that:
- The fire be put out, their environment cleaned up and restored to a habitable state.
- The government should call on CNL to take on the responsibility of ensuring that their pipelines and equipments are routinely checked and maintained in other to avoid similar occurrences in subsequent times.
- Adequate compensations should be paid to impacted communities and alternative sources of livelihood provided for those impacted by the fire outbreak.
Bassey called on NOSDRA, DPR, and other regulatory agencies to stand up to their responsibilities to ensure that the fire which has polluted the sources of water and the environment in Ilaje communities is put out. He advised that thorough investigation about the cause of the explosion should be done, the impacted environment be cleaned up, and adequate compensations be paid to those impacted by the fire outbreak.
HOMEF’s project officer on Fossil Politics, Cadmus Atake-Enade, stated that, in order to avoid a reoccurrence of the Ogoni incidence, action should be taken quickly to tackle this menace in Ilaje. He added that the government and other regulatory agencies should always ensure that routine checks and equipment integrity test are carried out on all oil installations across the country to avoid the incidences of equipment failures due to outdated and expired facilities.
“Companies responsible for oil pollution incidences should respond to them swiftly, as acts of negligence and impunity threatens the existence of the people and communities,” HOMEF added.