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Tragedy faced by Ibaa community in Rivers

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By Usman Oladimeji

People of the community are faced with water pollution and abandonment.

It’s impossible to overstate the value of water to the lives of people. In reality, it’s a human right that’s directly related to people’s survival. Section 20 of Chapter 2 of the Nigerian Constitution, which focuses on environmental goals, specifies that the government must take measures to ensure the safety of the country’s water supply, as well as its air and land, forests, and wildlife. The right to life is highlighted in the Constitution, which makes any action or omission that endangers the public’s health a violation of the constitution. Even under international human rights law, everyone has the right to safe and affordable drinking water.

Additionally, the SDGs, and specifically goal 6, underlined the accessibility, sustainability, and management of water and sanitation for all people. All of these regulations apply to all of the Niger Delta’s communities, whether or not they produce oil. The plight of the Ibaa people in Rivers State’s Emuoha Local Government is illustrative of the dangers posed by environmental insecurity and encroachment on the people. The Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment report on the Ibaa community sheds light on the environmental neglect of multinational corporations operating in the Niger Delta, which is severely affecting the Rivers residents.

Surrounding community remains impoverished and undeveloped.

This report was produced by the Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre, an NGO, in partnership with Obelle Concern Citizens, and with support from BOTHENDS and the Institute of Pollution Studies at Rivers State University. From the report, there is a long-standing distrust between the Ibaa people and certain oil prospecting corporations, as well as a stronger display of abandonment by the companies. Companies have benefited years of economic success, while the surrounding community remains impoverished and undeveloped.

In an interview on the sidelines of the report’s release, the community’s ruler, His Royal Highness Eze Sunday Wobodo Jonah, the Nyeweali-Ali of Ibaa and His Council of Chiefs, laments the community’s deteriorating standard of living and the presence of the hydrocarbon in their underground water, both of which have been directly linked to decades of oil exploration in the area. Moreover, he claimed that the town’s water source had been polluted. It was discovered that an oil company’s manifold 8 trunk line may have leaked crude into the area’s groundwater.

Black crude substance reportedly found in a water source.

According to the report, the discovery was made on January 15, 2016, when crude oil was reportedly discovered in a hand-dug groundwater well belonging to one Samuel Chukwure. It was also mentioned that the locals have nothing to show for the years of oil prospecting in the area in terms of societal progress. The community had reportedly tried writing letters to the IOCs about the anomalies, but their efforts had been ignored. A black crude substance has reportedly been detected in Sunday Egbunne’s only source of drinking water, with claims that the pollution has spread to Ovuahu Comprehensive High School.

A competent environmentalist was approached by the community to verify the findings of this environmental report by analyzing the water quality together with the air and soil. Surprisingly, hydrocarbons (TPH, PAH, and BTEX) and heavy metals (arsenic, iron, nickel, calcium, chromium, and methane) were found in alarmingly high concentrations when samples were collected and tested. The investigation concluded with several recommendations, including relocating affected people to a secure area and providing them with clean water.

Polluting companies need to engage with NOSDRA, locals.

Governments at all levels were also charged to conduct an investigation to determine the root cause of the oil spill and its devastating effects on the environment, the economy, and the lives of the people. Polluting companies need to engage with National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency ( NOSDRA), the local community, and CSOs to conduct an independent investigation into the extent of the damage to the areas underground water, using contamination assessment criteria like the Environmental Guidelines and Standard for the Petroleum Industry in Nigeria (EGASPIN) to determine what needs to be done to clean it up before it worsens.

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