We’ve been living as nomads for 30 years, Aggah villagers cry out By Davies Iheamnachor AGGAH—PRIOR to the arrival of Nigerian Agip Oil Company, NAOC Plc , in the rural Aggah clan in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area, Rivers State, in the 60s to carry out oil exploration activities, the people, largely farmers and fishermen, livedRead More
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We’ve been living as nomads for 30 years, Aggah villagers cry out
By Davies Iheamnachor
AGGAH—PRIOR to the arrival of Nigerian Agip Oil Company, NAOC Plc , in the rural Aggah clan in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area, Rivers State, in the 60s to carry out oil exploration activities, the people, largely farmers and fishermen, lived in peace and despite their landscape, they had no fear of being submerged by flood because the natural water channel to Oloshi River was open.
But since the oil multinationals constructed oil locations, Mgbede 11, 18 and 20, with concrete elevation basement of about 40,000 square metres area each with access roads, along and across the normal water course, oil has turned out to be a curse to the people.
The people are fuming that the company, which allegedly knows that its activities had impacted negatively on them paid no attention to their disapproving chorus and would like President Muhammadu Buhari, the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, National Assembly and National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, to step in and call NAOC to order.
Unambiguous warning and directive
Not even the unambiguous warning and directive by the state government through the Ministry of Environment, Port Harcourt, which officials carried out an environment health inspection in the community, August, 2015, on the company to abate the nuisance did not could move the oil firm to hearken to the cry of the community. Findings by NDV showed that the clan has been overrun annually by flood for over 30 years running, but the people did not keep quiet, they had complained severally to the company, which has seemingly developed tactics of engaging and disengaging them, while the problem subsists.
The community raised the alarm on the environmental hazards in the area early enough, dispatching series of letters to the company, which initially disregarded them until later when it was forced to form technical teams, led by Mr. A Howards and Mr. Michel which visited the clan. The different teams in separate reports, reference numbers AH/571/1088, AH/616/189 and RM 930/1294 and RM/183/692, corroborated the claim of the community.
In a letter dated December 19, 2002, addressed to the General Manager, District, NAOC, Port Harcourt, the community stated that oil locations 11, 18 and 20 operated by NAOC were built on the waterways and as a result, cause heavy flooding in the community, annually. The Aggah Youths Progressive Union, AYPU, also in a letter dated July 27, 2011, at the peak of flooding, that year, wrote the then Director of State Security Service, Rivers State Command, complaining that since the installation of Mgbede oil fields in the 1960s and early 1970s, Aggah has been experiencing annual flooding.
Environment Ministry indicts NAOC: The Ministry of Environment, Rivers State, in a report in May, 2016, with the imprimatur of Mr. E. I. Uye, Director, Planning Research and Statistics for the Permanent Secretary, disclosed how NAOC ignored the ministry despite the notification and reminder to the General Manager (District), Port Harcourt, to make arrangements for environmental health inspection of the area, following the complaint by the community.
“The company neither responded nor showed any concern,” he stated, adding that the ministry, in spite of the snub, went ahead to perform its statutory function by carrying out the inspection. This was after the 30-day notice to the firm to abate the “nuisance.”
The state government in the report stated that the company in actual fact constructed oil locations with concrete elevation basements and elevated access roads in the community without any drainage system to drain-off and allow free flow of rain water.
It directed NAOC to “carry out topographical survey from Akudini compound through the Nwayara land and Obunwodu land, design drainage network, plan and construct a drainage system with adequate dimensions and gradients that will drain-off and ensure free flow of rain water to the nearby water bodies (Oloshi River),” a directive NAOC has failed to comply with, “he said.
Our bizarre experiences— Ubah
One of the villagers, Mr. Alexander Ubah, told NDV: “This place is one of the worst areas during the yearly flooding. We live in our houses for only six months every year and stay out in the remaining months of the year because of the flooding.
“This flooding started since in the 1980s after NAOC built the location for their wells at Obuwodu in Aggah. We vacate our houses in June and return when the flood recedes in October. Nowhere in Aggah is conducive at that period, we move to neighbouring communities to rent houses.
“At the end of the flood, we always have strange experiences; reptiles will be coming out at will. Mosquitoes will not allow people stay in their houses, so also sickness will be much. The dirty water always enters our wells although now people drink borehole, yet it is not still safe. We have not received any health intervention from Agip or the government.”
Ubah informed that for more than 30 years, flood has devastated the community, leading to the collapse of buildings, decay of agricultural produce, including fishes in the fish ponds and other aquatic animals.
Company officials confirmed obstruction—Nicholas
Also speaking, leader of Egbema Voice of Freedom, EVF, Pastor Evaristus Nicholas, said the community sent a team in 1982 and 1994 to the company for agreement, but regretted that after the substantiation of the obstruction, NAOC refused to follow the remedial measures to avert flooding.
“The painful thing is that NAOC has refused to remove the stumbling block causing the flooding. In 1988 and 1989 respectively, Agip came through their technical managers, Mr. A. Howards and Mr. Michel, they followed the natural water course and discovered that it was location 11, 18, 20 and their access road that are causing the flood and they made a report to the company.
“They told NAOC in the report to lift the blockade to allow water flow into the Oloshi River, but the company refused. On March 2, 9 and 11, 2011, the people protested and Agip signed an agreement with the community. Number eight of the agreement the community is that will the community will identify another water discharge point for the company. We did, and till now, they have done nothing.”
Nicholas said: “We lack words to describe what we experience yearly. The death rate in Aggah community is high. We are calling on NEMA to please come to our aid. We are helpless; we are calling on the National Assembly, the federal government and the state government to please come to our aid.
Experiencing annual flooding
“What Agip is committing in Aggah is genocide, we call on everyone to come to our aid. They have seen that we cannot do them anything, that is why they have remained wicked to us. In 2015, we took the matter to the Ministry of Environment, Rivers State. Their report indicted NAOC, yet it refused to reply to the ministry or resolve the problem,” he asserted.
Swamped from June – December: Chairman, Community Development Committee, CDC, Aggah clan, Mr. Ihedike Elthelbert, similarly bemoaned: “It has been over 40 years since this community started experiencing annual flooding because of the facilities of NAOC built on our waterways.
“The community has written series of letter to the company, we want them to come and lift their blockades so that this yearly experience would be averted. The channel through which water empties in Oloshi River was seriously blocked by the company, from June to October the community is always flooded.”
Breach of promise: A community leader, Chief Felix Akudini, in a chat with NDV, asserted: “Agip is aware that they are the cause of the problem. We have written letters to them and what they accepted to do is to be paying rent to the affected people. If the flood comes, everybody will pack out of their houses and NAOC will give a certain amount to people to rent house outside the community.
“They did that for few years, since 1992 or there about, they stopped even giving the rent and left at the middle of this problem. I still have the receipt of the last rent they paid. They do not want to make alternative for us. What we perceive is that NAOC is neglecting us. They actually want to kill us all so that they take over our land and explore oil to their fill. But there is God, they will not succeed.”
Oil, not a blessing: Opinion leader, Chief Chukwudi Ekibo, said: “Why NAOC is playing all these pranks is because it is guilty. It is visible, the evidences are there, and even their own technical managers told them that the flood is occasioned by their operations. It is clear. Years back, we formed a technical committee and we were privileged to see the managing director of NAOCM, he promised to do something, but till now, nothing has been done.
“We are not happy because it is as if the oil we have is becoming the source of our problem. We cannot continue to lose our people every year, as a result of flooding that is caused by human beings. The community is sad because after the flood, we always experience difficulty. Our crops are destroyed and our economic life is affected. Aggah falls into a rain forest zone and it is not good that anything should be done to obstruct the flow of water. This is an act of wickedness on the innocent people of Aggah.”
ERA/FoEN demands environmental audit: The Head, Legal Resource of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria, Mr Chima William, called for environmental audit to determine the extent of damage done to the community.
His words: “NAOC should stop the carnage in Aggah, there should be an environmental audit in the community to determine loses the community has recorded, because there are several things you cannot find in that environment again.”
Chima said: “We received complain from Aggah community about perennial flooding in larger part of the community. As it is in our custom, we do not act without investigating an issue, so that we do not misrepresent issues. When we visited the rain and the flood have receded, but we received video clip on the flooding. We also moved round the affected areas. We went to where flood from the community empties into a larger water body and we found out that NAOC built their facility on an elevated platform. It is built above the water level. This means that they knew the point they built the facility is flood prone areas. The waterway was blocked.
“We also saw an attempt made by NAOC to solve the problem through something that would function as a gutter, but the effort was not good enough for the water to flow through, so water pushes back into the community. Many houses have been abandoned and destroyed by the flood.
“Four things that beg for urgent attention, firstly, priority should be given to stop the flooding. They should determine the extent of damage in the community. Compensation should be paid and critical environmental audit should be carried out in Aggah to find out what will be restored in the community.”
Sealed lip: An official of NAOC, who spoke to NDV, said: “I have no comment because it is our policy not to join issues with our host communities. We have about 350 of them and we have tremendous respect for them. This is a matter that we have to sort out and we have our ways of engaging them; we will do so and put the matter behind us.”
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