•Ikarama swamps polluted, residents demand apt cleanup, remediation
•For 2 consecutive years, I couldn’t construct fish pond – Warder, inhabitant
•NOSDRA, Shell carried out joint test, found crude oil in our soil – Dwellers
By Samuel Oyadongha
RESIDENTS of Ikarama, a riverside fishing and farming community in Yenagoa Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, have raised the alarm over non-stop crude oil spills that have contaminated their farmlands and fishponds, over the years, dispossessing them of their means of livelihood.
Frustrated inhabitants, who spoke to NDV at Ikarama, blamed regulatory agencies, including National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, for failing to checkmate the oil companies, pleaded with the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Environment to direct aberrant oil companies to carry out proper cleanup and remediation of despoiled area.
Though Agip also extract crude oil in Ikarama environment and has pipelines from which oil spills have occurred over the years, but greater section of its pipelines were laid through neighbouring Kalaba/Ayamabele community, residents alleged that crude oil spewed from Shell’s Okordia Manifold, Adibawa/Okodia delivery line and Trans-Niger pipeline impacted the community more.
I saw crude oil coming out from the ground – Warder
Immediate past youth president of Ikarama, Benjamin Warder, who dreamed of becoming a large-scale fish farmer in the community, said he tried to construct a fish pond in March, 2021 and April, 2022, but his efforts were futile.
“In March last year, I brought an excavator to prepare a fish pond for me. What I saw was quite unfortunate. I saw crude oil coming out from the ground. I raised the alarm by informing the Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria.
NOSDRA, Shell found crude oil in 3 spots
“Following the alarm, officials of NOSDRA, Shell and ERA/FoEN conducted a joint visit to the area, August 31, 2021, where five spots were cleared and dug and crude oil found in three spots.
“And it was glaring that crude oil was coming out from the ground. As a community person, I felt that since the multinational oil company had come here to witness crude oil coming out from the ground, it would carry out soil test in the entire environment and take other necessary steps.
“The thinking was that after the follow up soil testing, the next line of action would take place, maybe proper remediation of the environment. But unfortunately, since August last year till now, nothing has been seen or heard about it from the company.
“Of course, it is a wasted effort for me, nothing has come forth, imagine the money I have spent, my thought was that by investing here, I will be able to get something tomorrow and cater for my family. But the land and river are polluted and I am not the only one in this situation.
Farmers, fisher folks now jobless
“There are farmers and fisher folks who cannot make use of their farmlands and swamps anymore. This is Ekperikiri swamp. And there are other areas more impacted than this.
“Our people are impoverished. As a youth, I do not have a job. And if today I have sourced for money and invested for myself and I am seeing this, then what is my fate? he lamented.
“So, the major call now is that Shell should come down and do proper cleanup and remediation like they are doing in Ogoni land.
“The UNEP Report recommendation should not be implemented only in Ogoni land but extended to other impacted Niger-Delta communities like Ikarama community. That is our major call and our major concern.
“That notwithstanding, I decided to try and invest again this year and brought an excavator on 26th April, 2022. And you know the heavy cost of bringing a swamp buggy down here from Yenagoa, it is expensive. And when we excavated the one you are seeing behind me, what we saw was even worse than the one of 2021,” he bemoaned.
We want appropriate cleanup, remediation – Glitter, youth president
The current youth president of the community, Ziah Glitter, confirmed that some other impacted sites in the immediate community have crude oil in the soil, demanding that Shell return to Ikarama to carry out proper cleanup and remediation.
We smell crude oil everywhere – Ibator, villager
Another community folk, 60-year-old Mr. Dominion Ibator, lamented the presence of crude oil in the environment, saying: “Its pungent smell permeates the environment when the heat of the sun is high.”
Our findings – Morris, ERA/FoEN
Speaking on the development, Head, ERA/FoEN, Bayelsa Office, Alagoa Morris, asserted: “During the last two visits by ERA/FoEN, it was discovered that part of the environment which used to be bushy has been cleared and farmed by land owners. Cassava and a special cocoyam referred to as amassi, are the main crops seen growing.”
“However, the fear and concern are that these root crops might take in hydrocarbons from the crude oil-polluted environment and such a scenario poses grave danger to residents unless the environment is properly remediated.
“The danger of harvesting from crude oil impacted crops from the polluted site for consumption is better imagined than experiencing the negative impacts on the long run.
“Also, the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Environment should take adequate steps to ensure the UNEP recommended standard cleanup and remediation ongoing in Ogoniland, are extended to Ikarama and other communities in Bayelsa and, by extension, other communities in the Niger- Delta.
“NOSDRA had in 2014 pronounced Bayelsa State as most polluted in the Niger- Delta, it should, therefore, rise to the occasion to justify its place in the protection of our environment and as a regulator, by prevailing on Shell to return to oil spill- impacted sites and do proper remediation”, he asserted.