Delta Ijaw community protests effect of well-head fire on people’s health

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TRACKING>>The people of Polobubo (Tsekelewu), an Ijaw community in Warri North council area of Delta state have raised the alarm over the health and ecological hazard that an ongoing fire on a well-head in their community is now posing to their lives.

The community, who raised the alarm during a peaceful protest carried round the waterlogged community on Sunday evening, also called on the federal government to prevail Chevron Nigerian Limited (CNL), the operator of the Ikpalakpala-bou well-head, not to set off another round of ethnic crisis between them and their Ilaje neighbours in Ondo state.

The Nation gathered that the Ikpalakpala-bou well-head had been on fire as well as spewing gas into the atmosphere sing April 18, 2019, a situation which the leaders of Polobubo community claimed had resulted into a number of health cases and shortage of consumable water.

Perhaps, the most heated of the issues raised by the current fire was the confusion the community claimed the oil company had generated over the ownership of the land where the facility is located. According to them, Chevron had addressed well-head in a letter sent to the community as Ojumale, name of a community in the neighbouring Ondo state.

Addressing journalists during the protest, some of the leaders of the community, including the Secretary-General of Polobubo National Council, Mr. Midwest Kukuru; Chairman of Polobubo Oil and gas Committee, Deacon Ologun Azikboro; and the Secretary of Polobubo Bloc Youths Executive, Comrade Markson Aboh, all called on government to swiftly intervene before situations go out of control.

According to Azikboro, Chevron is about sparking the sort of communal crisis that has been experienced in Ogoni land in Rivers state, saying Polobubo people would never allow their land be ceded to another community, adding that failure of Chevron to act now could lead to the shutting down of its operations in the area.

“We will never agree to that because that place is known as Ikpalakpala-bou well-head, which belongs to Tsekelewu and Opuama communities and I can recall that this is the third incident on that well-head this year and Chevron has yet to close them out. We say a newspaper publication last week Wednesday in which a particular community is claiming to own that well-head.

“I want to use this medium to inform the whole world that Chevron is at the verge of causing another communal crisis and if this happens, it will not do us good and Chevron will live to regret it. This is the same kind of crisis that Shell caused in Ogoniland, but we will never allow it. We will never allow our land to be ceded to another community.

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“The boundary adjustment cases are there, we have a lot of historical facts to prove that that place belongs to us. Chevron should address this issue once and for all. They should also address all the ecological hazards that have come with this incident of well-head fire, else we are going to shut down their operations and activities in this area”, he said.

Speaking on the health hazard now posed against the community, Comrade Markson Aboh said “we are calling on both government and Chevron to wade into this situation, as a matter of urgency; they should send relief materials to the people of the community because our people are really facing health issues right now. At some point we had to announce to the people of the community to stop drinking and using rain water for consumables for the time being”.

Also speaking of the efforts by the community to ascertain the level of damage and to get the company to set records straight on some grey areas, the Secretary of the Polobubo National Council, Mr. Kukuru said the community’s efforts had so far been rebuffed by officials of the company on site.

“We were trying to access the place today, but the Field Security Officer (FSO) of the company refused us access to the place and we wonder why. We had been earlier told that the fire had been controlled, but when we got there we discovered that it is very much on. At the site they completely refused us to gain access to the place.

“This fire has been on since 18th of this month and our community solely relies on rain water for consumption, this emission is already killing us. Our people use the rain water fetched from their roofs gutters, the roofs on which the soot from the fire as well as the emitted gas must have settled, meaning our people have been drinking polluted water, drinking dangerous chemicals”, Kukuru said.

Meanwhile, when contacted for the company’s response, spokesman of CNL in Warri said a proper corporate response would soon be made available.