“Since morning I have been on the water for fish and all I could get is this small catch of fingerlings. My nets are all soaked with oil. I cannot use them again for fishing. We are calling on Agip and the government to come to our aid to stop the problem we are facing in the community.”
Close to tears, Betty, a fisherwoman in Lasukugbene, a community in Southern Ijaw area of Bayelsa State, laments.
Her sorrow is informed by an oil spill that became noticeable on February 3, 2022, at the community following the burst of pipelines reportedly belonging to Agip.
In what looks like the usual style of the Nigerian oil industry, the spill has been unattended to up till date. Curiously, no Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) has been officially carried out by the relevant authorities.
Lasukugbene, community plays host to manifold pipelines and oil wells belonging to Agip Oil Company which has been operating in the community since 1974.
Nothing appears to have been done to alleviate the sufferings of the community people. Lasukugnene, a predominately fishing community, has no hospital or health care facilities and relies mostly on local herbs for treatment of their ailments. They lack all basic social amenities.
On Saturday, March 19, 2022, a team comprising officials of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) and Environmental Rights Action (ERA) visited the community to ascertain the level of damage done to the community and figure out what must be done.
The people lamented that the oil has destroyed their rivers and lands. The river, which is their only source of potable water and their crops, have been contaminated by the oil spill. Some community members described their ordeal and expressed sadness over Agip’s negligence and government’s failure to regulate better and to bring succour their way.
The community secretary, Mr. Valiant Jackson, revealed that the spill, which was discovered on February 3, 2022, had occurred over a month earlier.
“Yesterday, March 18, Agip sent their team to clamp the erupted pipeline without informing the community leadership or contacting anyone from the community. When we saw them and approached them to find out what they were doing, Agip accepted that the spill was actually caused by equipment failure, saying that they were doing their best to ensure that the spill was contained.
“Since the operation of Agip in the community, the only thing Agip has provided for the community is a water tank that is not working. We have no hospital, except for a small healthcare facility built by the local government. The equipment in the health centre was bought by the community and the only staff in the health centre comes only once in a while, usually during statewide immunisation campaigns,” Jackson said.
Another community woman, Josephine Tarilla, stated: “We are suffering. There are no standard healthcare facilities, water, school or light. We can no longer fish in our rivers, and the oil spill has destroyed all our fishing tools and nets. We call on Agip and the government to come to our aid. We are suffering as a result of the oil spill from the Agip pipeline which passes through our community.
“We need help and relief materials to reduce our sufferings. Since the spill occurred, almost two months now, we observe that there are rashes all over our bodies when we use the water from the river to bathe. We do not have alternative source of water. The spill is killing us here!”
Cadmus Atake-Enade, the project lead, Fossil Politics of HOMEF, stated that “the spill blanketed the community’s river and swamps. It was an absolutely disheartening and scary sight. I wonder if there is hope for the common Niger Delta man. Communities in this region are suffering daily, there should be an immediate health and environmental audit of this place and the clean-up process should begin.
“It will be recalled that on February 24, 2021, a similar spill occurred in Ogboibide community in Southern Ijaw where an Agip pipeline at OML63 had a gas leak and the company could only clamp the leakage site after much waste of time.”
The spill site is by the community fishing camp. HOMEF demands an immediate clamping of the leakage on the pipelines and replacement of all rusted pipelines in the areas. The organisation also calls for a health audit in the area, and the entire Niger Delta as well as payment of adequate compensations for harms suffered.