Living in the crude oil communities in Nigeria

Living in the crude oil communities in Nigeria

Friday, May 9, 2014 9:50 am

Mrs Bale, famale farmer in KOZO village, Gokana, local government area, lamenting of poor harvest due to oil spilllage

Mrs Bale, famale farmer in KOZO village, Gokana, local government area, lamenting of poor harvest due to oil spilllage

Femi Ipaye

The Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism has initiated a series of projects in pursuit of greater accountability in the Nigerian oil and gas sector.

The projects are designed to help ensure good governance in Nigeria and also to push the media and civil society to demand for greater transparency in the operations of oil companies.

There have been demands for greater transparency in the operations of the oil companies since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999.

Recent probe reports, including the Nuhu Ribadu report, have indicated wide-scale corruption that has denied Nigeria and host communities of oil companies the benefits of the resource from their areas.

This investigative story project, executed with a small grant to cover the logistics from the WSCIJ, depicts in pictorial form the challenges of living in oil-producing communities.

The focus is on two major communities in River State – Bodo city in Gokana Local Government Area and Ogale in Eleme community.

A United Nations Environmental Programme report in 2011 revealed that the oldest person in Eleme is 60 years old, mostly as a result of contamination of their sources of water in the process of production of crude oil.

The UNEP report stated that the people of Eleme drink water that contains benzene over 900 times the WHO guideline.
The accompanying pictures depict life in these two communities.

In Bodo, Gokana Local Government Area in Rivers State, Livinus Baadom, 38, a fisherman, lives in Kozo village, a fishing settlement. Married with six children, with fishing as his only means of survival, Baadom said oil spills have polluted rivers and land, making life more difficult for him. Livinus’ first child, who just completed his secondary education, has joined the fishing business since his father cannot afford to send him to a higher institution.

“In two weeks I cannot boast of catching half basket of fish or crabs. It’s difficult for me now to feed my family: no water to fish anymore; our land has been destroyed due to the oil spills,” said Baadom.

Mrs. Bale, the wife a fisherman, is now a farmer in order to help feed the family because her husband is no longer hauling in enough fish to cater for the needs of the family. But she also complains of poor growth of her farm products, due damage to the land by crude oil spill.

Madam Ngorni drinks from the only well that serves the villagers. Though polluted and with bad taste, it’s the only well that produces “manageable water” for the villagers due to the problem of oil spills in Ogoniland.

At Kolgba waterfront in Bodo-City, Bari-Befe, a 15-year-old Junior Secondary School student lives with his parents. Bari-Befe takes care of himself by fishing, but with the problem of oil spills, he no longer catch fishes but crabs and tiny crayfish, which he eats and sells to pay his school fees.

The United Nations Environment Programme report in 2011 indicated that in Ogale, a community in Eleme, Ogoniland, the benzene level in their water is over 900 times the WHO guideline. In Ogale at present, according to the people in the community, people no one live beyond 60 years of age.

The Nwafor family seem to be the most affected in Ogale. Mrs. Comfort Nwafor has been suffering from stroke, said by medical reports to be the ill-effect of the water she drinks. The right leg of Mrs. Nwafor is presently paralysed.

Her husband, Mr. Sunday Nwafor, is totally blind due to consumption of the same water.

The aged couple, with seven children, live in one part of their old building and have rented the other part out for income.

At present, it is quite difficult for people of Eleme to get water for their daily needs.

Despite the stoppage of oil production, Ogoni youths believe that Shell oil company is still surreptitiously pumping the oil.

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