Security Challenges of Rising Environmental Crisis in Ebubu
Tragedy struck in Ejamah Ebubu in Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State of Nigeria when a young man was suffocated to death while digging a Suck Away pit.
We gathered that the victim, Mr. Emmanuel Okulu and his colleague were hired to dig the suck away pit. Investigations revealed that Okulu, an unemployed 30 years old man was inside the pit digging while his other colleague was outside the pit drawing out the bucket of sand when he noticed that the victim could no longer talk or move.
Eye witness said when his colleague went into the pit with the aim of rescuing him; they were both trapped by the gas.
A rescuer who arrived few minutes later found Okulu and his colleague unconscious. His body, it was learnt, was seriously drenched in liquefied natural gas. He died on the spot while his colleague was rushed to the Sun and Star Clinic and Maternity at Ebubu from where he was referred to another hospital for further treatment.
It could be recalled that in January this year at Okpako Ejamah Ebubu, a woman was reported to have died after inhaling chlorine gas dumped in the area.
Our investigation revealed that a chlorine gas container was said to have busted open and leaked into the atmosphere, affecting the respiratory system of many of the inhabitants of the area.
A Senior Minister of the Assemblies of God Church in the area, Reverend Eugene Osarobele decried the state of the environment of area. He pointed out that companies operating in Eleme and its environs use the place as a junkyard for various forms of toxic waste and other dangerous materials without recourse to environmental consequences of their actions.
“My concern is how these businessmen that are inhuman can be controlled?” he said.
“Last year they dumped something which exploded and fire engulfed the whole place. People were burnt alive, properties worth millions of naira were destroyed, yet nothing was done about it.
“This year again, the same business people have come to dump chemicals and those mostly affected are pregnant women and children.”
The Paramount Ruler of Ejamah, Chief Isaac Osaro Agbara lamented the death of Emmanuel Okulu and called on Shell Petroleum Development Company to accept responsibility for his dead
A reliable community source also revealed that, “About two months ago, there was a crude oil leakage from the ground which was not far from where the pit was being dug which led to the dead of Okulu. SPDC visited the scene with their experts and armed soldiers. Indigenes and residents of the area were prevented from witnessing what they were doing. We believe that the chemicals spread around the area might have caused the death”.
Expressing shock at the untimely death of Emmanuel Okulu his elder brother, John Okulu described the deceased as a cool and easy going person who would not look for people’s trouble. He wondered why SPDC who knows what killed his brother should now turn around to harass the bereaved family with police and other security agents.
“They (SPDC) came here yesterday with their police saying they want to carryout autopsy examination on our brother. We have no answers to give to them, so we kept quiet. An autopsy on someone who died from liquefied natural gas’ suffocation after two weeks in the morgue?” he lamented.
“Besides, the police took my brother to the mortuary before informing me of his dead. Why is SPDC suddenly now interested in running from pillar to post, why are they playing hide and seek game, if they don’t know what killed my brother?” he queried.
The level of pollution in the area is alarming. Right in the heart of the community, close to the stream (Wamba) that used to be the people’s only source of drinking water, fishing and swimming is a signpost erected by SPDC with the inscription, “WARNING! DO NOT DRINK, FISH OR SWIM HERE”; a multi-million Naira SPDC’s contract which we were informed was executed by the Eleme Local Government Council. Crude oil pipelines run through farmlands in all the communities of Ebubu, and functional pipelines are exposed to the elements here and there. Yet the people have nothing good to show for all these, except tales of devastation, deceases, sufferings and deaths.
The Ejamah Ebubu Oil spill has been described as the earliest massive crude oil spill recorded in the Niger Delta. Although, literature on the spill is scanty, oral history in the area holds this catastrophic incident close to the people, and the lasting physical scars remain as real evidence of the disaster. The Ejamah Ebubu spill site is a world-class oil pollution scene. A visit to the site recently by members of the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) led by Professor C. P. Wolf, Dr. Amy Agofure and Dr. Osaro Ollorwi was heart touching and revealing.
A ruptured pipeline caused by an inferno that consumed nearly 40 homes, persisted for a long period and spread from Ejamaejor forest up to Wamba stream through Ochani swamp at which spots many people died in the fire. Large expanse of farmlands covering 255.369 hectares and biodiversity losses were recorded to the incident.
But despite judicial efforts to compensate and alleviate the suffering of the people arising from the pollution, ensure proper clean-up of the impacted areas and return the environment to its pre-impacted status, SPDC has continually turned down judicial pronouncements and regularly embark on endless appeals.
The people are wondering aloud: Having polluted the area to the point of warning the people to stay away from Wamba Stream, Ochani swamp and other impacted areas because the waters are not safe for human consumption, the fishes in it are contaminated and unsafe for human consumptionand swimming in the waters is dangerous, what alternative arrangements has SPDC made to take care of these essential needs of the people?
SPDC provided water for communities in Nchia, a distance of more than three kilometers from Ebubu and is busy blowing trumpets around the world announcing the provision of safe water for Eleme. What a shame? Our investigation disclosed that contract for second phase of the water distribution network has been concluded. But, even in the contract for the second phase of the distribution of the purported “Eleme Water Scheme” that is yet to be executed Ebubu and other clans of Odido are not captured therein as documents of the Rivers State Ministry of Water Resources on the matter indicate.
Where do SPDC want the people of Ebubu to source for fish, a universal source of good protein from, despite visible poverty in the area perpetrated by SPDC’s donkey years of reckless oil and gas exploration and production activities? Who then is killing the people’s recreational life by polluting their waters and not providing them alternative swimming facilities and other water resources?
Despite being home of crude oil since 1956, Ebubu has been described as land of natural gas. Gas has been discovered in commercial quantities is Dabor, Mmeh and Nkoh Swamps and environs. A dig of up to 10 feet anywhere in Ebubu is enough to get to either oil or natural gas. It appears the people of Ebubu are living, moving and having their being on time-bomb that may likely explode anytime any day. While SPDC is invariably claiming sole ownership of natural resources in the area, we are of the opinion that the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) into law will go a long way to addressing the issues of exploration of abundant natural resources in Ebubu and across the country.
The above scenario creates serious security challenges. It well known fact the world over, that national security is beyond the purview of military capability and blind application of force or strength. Effective and efficient management of the elements of national security is required for both national security and sustainable development. The correct mix of economic elements, social elements, environmental elements, women and youth elements and military elements, among others, is crucial to checking insecurity in our various communities.