The Guardian (Nigeria)
Gas flares, oil spills worsen climate change in Niger Delta communities
THEoil- rich Niger Delta region has continued to suffer from the devastating effects of gas flaring and oil spills occasioned by operations of multinational firms.
The development is creating apprehension among communities, who are apparently worried about their survival in the region.
Some manifestations of the climate change crisis triggered by gas flaring and oil spills include, the disappearance of wildlife, fishes in rivers, creeks and fresh waters of the Delta, excessive heat, shrinking vegetation, especially of economic trees like palm trees, oranges, mangoes, pears, plantain and banana.
A recent visit to Kwale, a community in Ndokwa West Council of Delta State, revealed that the area, which is surrounded by about 10 flaring racks operated by oil majors such as Nigeria Agip Oil Company ( NAOC), Pillar Oil Limited, Energia Oil Limited, MidWestern Oil Limited, Sterling Global Limited’s Liquefied Natural Gas Plant, has become a furnace of sorts.
The residents hardly sleep due to excruciating heat emanating from the flaring and hydro- carbon emissions around the five quarters of the town also called Utgaba- Ogbe namely: Umusadege, Umeseti, Umusam, Isumpe and Umusideri.
Their neighbours in LagosOgbe, Ogbe- Ani, Ebendo, Obodo- Ugwa, Benekuku, Aboh and Ushie in Ndokwa East Council as well as their Aradhe, Ellu and Ovrode counterparts in Isoko North Council, which are host communities to several oil wells, suffer similar environmental devastations.
A resident of Kwale, who doubles as former councilor of Ward three in Utagba- Ogbe, Chief Okpor Ezeukwu, expressed worries that Kwale is being affected by the activities of the oil firms.
Ezeukwu told The Guardian in an emotional voice that residents of Kwale are dying in hundreds, while the life expectancy is now below 60 years.
He said in spite of the oil wealth and numerous companies operating in the community, the neglect had emboldened criminal activities by the youths in the area.
He observed that the history of oil exploration in Kwale dates back to 1960/ 61 when Agip started drilling oil in the area about four years after oil was first discovered at Oloibiri, Bayelsa State in 1956. He added that the oil discovered in the community was used to prosecute the Nigerian civil war between 1967- 1970.
He said Shell Petroleum Development Company ( SPDC) ceded its Oil Mining Lease ( OML) 60 to Sterling Global, while Elf ceded its OML 56 platform to Pillar, adding that the quantum of flares amounted to about 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas deposits within the Kwale bloc.
He described the impact of oil flares and spillages on the health of the community and its environs as very monumental, stressing that the excruciating heat, despite the rains, is so intense that most residents stay outside till midnight because they could not fall asleep.
Ezeukwu said: “It is a very lamentable situation we have found ourselves in Kwale. The oil firms smile away with our oil wealth. Flares from the oil wells have heated the environment to the extent that we hardly sleep.”
He added, “There have been reported cases of pulmonary diseases due to inhalation of hydrocarbon emissions. Regrettably, the Environmental Impact Assessment ( EIA) carried out recently within the community did not capture anything, fuelling speculations that the oil companies might have tampered with the results of the EIA to suit their whims and caprices.”
Ezeukwu said the quantum of oil being taken from the Ndokwa bloc is not properly recorded or tracked, adding that the political leaders from the area were not doing enough to check the rape of Ndokwa resources and attract greater development to Utagba- Ogbe.
He argued that a former Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Dr. Olisa Imegu, tried to attract government attention to the area, but the attempts coulwere not attract higher institutions, roads and other critical infrastructure.
According to him, Kwale which was like the Yankarri Games Reserve in those days, with a very rich wild life, among which were elephants, buffalos, monkeys, bush pigs, giant tortoise, deer, porcupine, leopard, antelopes and grass cutters, has lost the entire rich resources.