‘If COVID-19 Meets Oil Pollution, We Are Finished’

‘If COVID-19 Meets Oil Pollution, We Are Finished’
The reported discharge of 2.6 billion barrel of toxic waste over 48 years by the Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC) into communities in Bayelsa State has had the people of Brass Kingdom and Ologbobiri in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area living in a state of panic.

There are worries about air, water and soil contaminations due to oil spills and discharge of toxic waste, which have given rise to concerns that if residents start suffering the health effects, they might be mistaken for COVID-19 symptoms.

Already, there are reports of children and the elderly being struck by unusual ailments that locals suspect might have links to the pollution while fishing and farming, the economic mainstay of the communities, have suffered. Recently, dead fishes have turned up in huge numbers in some riverine communities in the state, especially in the Southern Ijaw and Brass areas and in other Niger Delta states.

The fishermen have blamed the oil spills and gas flaring for this. Concerned by these developments, elders and youths of Brass Kingdom wrote to the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) over alleged delays in the remediation and compensation for the over 2.6 billion barrels of toxic waste dumped into the Brass Canal due to the company’s operations.

According to the elders, Agip’s management has made several promises to the state government and the host communities in Brass to address the concerns but the Italian company has continued to discharge over 150, 000 barrels of toxic waste annually into the Brass Canal. This, they say, has contaminated the soil, groundwater and the air quality in these areas thereby degrading the health and livelihood of the people.

Recently, legal counsels of the Kingdom, Iniruo Wills and Dickson Omukoro of Ntephe, Smith and Wills Law Chambers, wrote a letter reminding the company of the urgent need for proper remediation of the ecological damage caused by 48 years of toxic waste discharge at the company’s Brass terminal. In the letter addressed to the company’s Managing Director, the community said it needs adequate compensation based on impartial impact assessment and a restoration and pollution prevention plan as per best practices.

The kingdom also drew the attention of NAOC’s management to the current long-drawn-out process of finding a lasting resolution to the pollution from the Brass Canal/oil terminal, which has triggered lots of petitions and subsequent exchanges and engagement between Agip, the office of the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and other regulatory agencies.

In the letter, the kingdom insisted that they are putting the company on notice, “to stop desperate attempts by their officers to compromise or induce key interests aimed at evading regulatory compliance, frustrating the ministerial directive for an independent comprehensive impact assessment and to corruptly waive NAOC’s environmental obligations to the people of Brass Kingdom.”

Also blighted by the contamination, the people of Okpoama Kingdom in the same local government area, have sent a save our soul message to the Federal Government They said that an oil spill occurred two weeks ago on the 24-inch Ogoda-Brass crude oil trunk line operated by the Nigerian Agip Oil Company.

The Chairman of the Okpoama Kingdom Oil and Gas Committee, Percy Jerry Wemi-Kwomain, said that the incident happened at the Amangaetima Bush near Ewoama-Brass.

“The oil spill has discharged enormous amounts of crude oil into the adjourning creeks and rivulets, thereby affecting the environment and the livelihood of the people of the area,” he said.

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Adebisi Adedayo

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