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Dead fish litter N’Delta area after explosion

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By Abraham Adekunle

Residents reportedly fetched and ate dead fish in Okrika LGA.

One of the effects of activities of multinational companies, the government and non-state actors is environmental degradation. The exploration and mining of crude oil that goes on in the Niger Delta region contribute a lot to this. It is not rare for residents of communities to find their means of livelihood gone due to the impact caused. For instance, farmlands are contaminated and rivers are polluted with dead fish as a result of oil spillage.

So, the United Nations takes this seriously because it is harming the planet. Goal 15 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is to eliminate environment degradation. According to this goal, the aims are to protect, restore and promote the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation as well as biodiversity loss. When oil is spilled on land, for example, it reduces the amount of agricultural products that can be produced. This is because toxins are released into the environment, which kill plants or render them poisonous.

Explosion that rocked Okari Jetty littered fish around.

It was reported that an explosion rocked a fuel dump in Okari Jetty in the Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State. The explosion affected aquatic life and resulted in the death of many fish. Residents reportedly fetched the fish that littered the environment and ate them. An eyewitness who disclosed this to newsmen in Port Harcourt on Thursday said that the incident left two fishermen dead. He said that it has affected aquatic life in the area, and many fish could be seen floating lifeless on the river.

This explosion occurred on August 7, 2023 after a hose used in offloading premium motor spirit (PMS, also known as petrol) at a Port Harcourt Refining Company depot was poorly handled by workers, resulting in a spill on July 31st. Following the explosion, many residents scooped and stored the product at different locations, even as the spill found its way into the river. It was also reported that two fishermen who had gone fishing later that evening with lanterns set off the explosion.

LGA chairman said only four reportedly died from the explosion.

Further, the eyewitness said that the event occurred close to NAFCON (moribund fertilizer company) bridge. As the two people were fishing, the fire sparked. Consequently, there was a large sound and fire in many places, and even the river and boat were burnt. The following morning, as he passed the place, people were catching fish on the river. “Some picked up to 20, 30, and so on, dried them, and started selling them,” the witness said. It was initially reported that 16 people died in the explosion, but the chairman of the local government, Honorable Akuiro Tobin, confirmed to the media that only four fatalities were recorded.

Describing the incident as unfortunate, Tobin said the incident happened when the victims tried to scoop petrol. He said that they were there to steal oil (petrol) and the government has been warning about it. He said that the victims were not sent and went there of their own accord. Oil theft is one of the issues that bedevils the region. Pipeline vandalism, sabotage and illegal refineries are consequences of such. The residents of the host communities are, sadly, the victims of the majority of the consequences.

Activist expressed sadness over the loss of lives.

Aside from the Okrika Council Chairman, relevant government agencies, including the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, have not released any statement concerning the incident. Meanwhile, an environmental rights advocate, Fyneface Dumnamene, expressed sadness over the loss of lives and called for an investigation into the explosion. The executive director of Youths and Environmental Advocate Centre stated that the center is more concerned about the people that died and the environmental impact of the incident. “It is important for the authorities, the NNPC, and the Refining Company to come forward and speak about what has happened so that they can carry out environmental cleanup, and be able to determine what has caused the incident and then prevent future occurrences,” Dumnamene said.

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