NGO berates firms over unstopped oil-well inferno in Ondo communities
By Adekunle Adebayo
Baffled with uncontrollable inferno affecting residents of various communities in Ondo State, a Non-Governmental Organization has called on Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL), the State government, 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.
The NGO, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), in a statement signed by its Director, Nnimmo Bassey, and made available to journalists, lamented how the fire outbreak has seriously affected residents of the community.
Bassey explained that the unending oil-well fire outbreak reportedly started on 18 April, 2019 at Ojumola Well 1 in Ajegunle-Ikorigho in the State, an oil- rich community has spread to no fewer than five other oil wells belonging to Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL).
He said, “CNL, after confirming the fire outbreak, claimed that the cause of the explosion was unknown and from a joint venture investigation carried out on the 20th April 2019, it was explained that the fire was due to third party interference. In other words, it was a result of sabotage or vandalization 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 mobilized emergency responders to assess the site, contain the fire, and boom the area.”
Bassey argued that, “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.”
Speaking on the development, Ola Judah, an Ilaje activist said, “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.
“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.
“Despite the fact that 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.”
He added, as a result of the impacts on the livelihood and well-being 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.