The residents of Obagi, a rural community in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State, who happen to be the hosts of oil companies like the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Company (NLNG), Total Energies, and AGIP, have been forced to flee their community by January 17, 2024 for some days due to a massive and aggressive fire that has gutted their farmlands and bushes, from a leaking AGIP gas pipeline. While some of the fleeing community persons have returned to their homes, those whose homes are closer to the point of the incident are afraid to do so.
A gas leak had earlier been reported from a pipeline close to the homes of some of the members of the Obagi community in June 2023. A community youth, Morgan Destiny, following a foul gas odour in the air detected that there was a serious gas leakage from a gas pipeline on their farmland. Suspecting the leaking pipeline belonged to Nigeria AGIP oil company, the community leaders promptly contacted the company. However, the company itself denied owning the facility.
The community leaders contacted NLNG over the matter and they also denied ownership of the leaking pipeline. The aggrieved community reported the problem to the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), and after swift investigations, it was discovered that the facility did, indeed, belong to AGIP. AGIP, however, ignored NOSDRA’s and the community’s call for repairs and refused to stop the leakage.
This willfully negligent decision not to address the gas leakage eventually led to the disastrous wildfire seven months later, forcing the people of the community to abandon their homes and seek refuge in other communities until respite came.
“There was fire everywhere. The ground and houses started shaking and people started running out of their homes. I was at home the day it happened,” Eze Clinton, a royal father of the Obagi community, told us.
The fire ravaged large expanses of cultivated farmlands, destroying the economic livelihoods of the people of the community who are mostly farmers and fishers.
The fire was already extinguished by the time the HOMEF team reached the affected area on Friday, January 19, in the company of reporters and community members. The people noted that AGIP was unwilling to meet with them, and a meeting set up for the day of our visit did not hold without any information regarding their inability to be present in the community.
The Obagi people bemoan the fact that although they have hosted AGIP on their land for several decades, they have derived no benefits from the relationship. According to them, AGIP has made no contributions to the development of the community, and the only legacy of this company to the Obagi people are their gas flares, the destruction of their natural resources, and the recent fire that has ravaged their community.
The community calls on the federal government to call AGIP to order, mandating them to repair, replace, and maintain their equipment and facilities in the Obagi community. They are also demanding that AGIP pays compensation for the damage their community has suffered due to their willful negligence due to the fire and gas leakage incident, and reparations for the years of environmental degradation that they have wreaked upon their land.