The people of Opuama community in Egbema Kingdom, Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State have continued to lament on tragedies that have befallen them following a terrifying oil spill that contaminated their land and water on 14 March 2021.
When an environmental monitor from Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) visited Opuama on 17 March, the community was in complete disarray and anguish over the spill which has been connected to the death of an elder, Pa. Anthony Ebiogbo.
Shedding more light on the community’s predicament, Mr. Paul Toruwei, a youth leader in one of Opuama’s Satellite Communities, lamented “There was a lot of dead fish and other aquatic animals washing up on our shores, lifeless. Our youths carried a lot of them on that day to the Opuama flow station and left them there for the oil company.”
The marine ecosystem of Opuama has been ruined by the oil spill. One aggrieved woman in the community cried out “We cannot even find small tilapia anymore. There is no fish anymore!”
Opuama was host to Shell for over 35 years before Nigerian Petroleum Development Company Ltd (NPDC); and Elcrest Exploration and Production Nigeria Ltd (NPDC/ELCREST, a joint venture between Starcrest Nigeria Energy and Seplat’s Eland Oil and Gas) took over oil and gas operations in the community.
Like many other communities in the Niger Delta playing hosts or neighbours to oil and gas companies, Opuama has lost more than it has gained from the operations of the NPDC/ELCREST joint venture.
The people of Opuama lack good health care facilities. The cottage hospital in the community built by NPDC/ELCREST was said to have been commissioned only some months ago and has no permanent doctors and nurses. A week after the oil spill, doctors and nurses were said to have been sent in to attend to those who took ill but later left, leaving many unattended to. Till the time of this report no permanent doctors and nurses have been sent to the hospital.
Several community members have had to visit alternative health care setups with no professional medical practitioners.
Another community person, Mr. Stanley Ejoor, the spokesperson/interpreter for the group met by the HOMEF monitor, commented that “the oil spill was accompanied by heavy smell of gas and was like a cloud which covered the whole community.” This particular occurrence was said to be responsible for the death of Pa. Anthony who according to some community people, collapsed less than 20 minutes after complaining about the pollution caused by the spill.
The youth leader informed that Pa. Anthony had lived most of his life in Lagos and had just moved back home to Opuama some few months back, only to meet his death.
According to the youth leader, “Because of the pollution, we had to shut down schools for the safety of our children, as there have been lots of complaints from parents in the community [who expressed their fears about their children falling ill], and there is no hospital to run to here in Opuama. There has been total lock down of economic activities here in our community.”
The community’s women and children were found searching for usable water as their major source of water had been ruined by the oil spill.
The oil spill has put the lives of the inhabitants of Opuama in danger and is making life difficult for them. The spill has disrupted Opuama’s natural ecosystems and has halted their vibrant economic activities.
But, like has always been the case, the concerned oil and gas company is trying to circumvent responsibility.
The community, hence, demands:
- Immediate clean up of the oil
- Provision of alternative potable water supply
- Immediate provision of relief materials and adequate compensation for damage done.
- Environmental audit of the entire Opuama Kingdom and immediate remediation and restoration of the environment
- Running of medical tests on the people of Opuama community and provision of adequate health care for every single soul in the community
- Oil companies should not be hasty to declare “cause” of oil spills until after a proper and thorough Joint Inspection Visit (JIV).