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Field Report #163: AGIPíS OBAMA STATION BLEEDS AGAIN
Thursday, 04 October 2007

Location: Obama Flow station, Nembe LGA, Bayelsa State, Nigeria

ImageSummary
A spill at the Obama Flow Station has led to the destruction of the environment and means of livelihood of the affected people in over ten communities. The spill occurred on 10 September 2007.

Crude oil from the flow station now floats on the Tereke River in Nembe / Ogbia Local Government Areas of Bayelsa State, including adjoining creeks. Dead fish and wilting vegetation line river banks.

A delegation of the Bayelsa State Government, led by the secretary to the State Government, Hon. Dr. Bolere Ketebu-Nwokeafor, visited affected communities in the last week of September, 2007 and promised relief materials amongst others. The State National Emergency Management Authority boss also promised to send report to appropriate quarters to secure relief for victims.

The severe impact has led to an exodus of community people from the area.


BACKGROUND
Obama flow station is owned by the Nigerian Agip Oil Company and is located in the Dorgu Ama and Akakim Ama communities of Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
The communities affected include: Basuo Tereke, Okokokiri, Alagoa Tereke, Okia Borukiri, Ekperikiri, Iwokiri, Adikai Ama, Ombukiri, Akakim Ama, Tein Tereke, Sounkiri and Abobiri.

ACCESS TO COMMUNITIES  
The only way to access these communities and others affected by the spill is either through the air or by river. The nearest one can get to them by land is by car to Ogbia Town, Headquarter of Ogbia Local Government Area, from where one takes a 45 minutes speed boat ride through the creeks to get there. Crude clinging to river banks and water lilies herald the visitor’s arrival in the impacted communities.



TESTIMONY AT SOUNKIRI
Sounkiri looked deserted. ERA monitors met a handful of community people, including the chairman of the Community Development Committee (CDC).

Mr. Erembo A. Erembo, Chair CDC
According to him “If I am not mistaken, Agip actually started operation at Obama flow station in 1973. Although we, the Sounkiri people are not recognized as host to Agip, their pipes criss-cross our land and we are less than 400 metres to the flow station. Our entire community was flooded with the crude oil, due also to the high tide. Our farms and fish ponds have all been damaged. This is not the first time we are suffering this kind of disaster from Agip. The same happened in 1998 and 2005. In all these, there was nothing like sabotage, but Agip refused to pay us any compensation. And as you can see, we are poor fisher folks, with nobody to speak for us. Agip has no regard for us. Even when we manage to encourage ourselves to approach the company (Agip) to discuss with them, they often use the military personnel to chase us away from their premises.

Continuing, the C.D.C. Chairman said “As you can see our river is polluted as a result of the spill. It used to be our only source of drinking. On your way to this town you must have seen a rope tied across a creek behind us. It has a red pieces of cloth attached to it. That is the entrance to the spill site. We now have to paddle round a long distance to Obama flow station to get drinking water. Most of our people, especially the youths, have gone to other communities like Nembe to engage in economic activities that will enable them make ends meet. For the past three (3) weeks now, we could no longer farm nor go for fishing as the land and river have been polluted and the fishes dying in their numbers. Even some of the crops that we normally harvest in seasons like this (flood) have been destroyed.

“As you know, traditionally, we are fisher folks. Even the Agip officials saw how the spill killed fishes and other aquatic lives. We depended on these as our means of livelihood”.

Government should assist us talk to Agip to at least, consider us and treat us fairly. We need pipe borne water very urgently. If they can add electricity, the better for us.”

He concluded by saying that “we have been reporting the leakage of gas early this year, around February, 2007 to Agip but they gave us deaf ears – only for them to claim sabotage now. This is wickedness, for there is nothing like sabotage; it is as a result of negligence on the part of Agip.”

Mrs. Mercy Daniel, a nursing mother:
“We cannot even drink the God-given rain water in our community. When we put our basins and buckets outside to collect rain water, the water is always covered with soot. This is as a result of the closeness of the town to the Obama flow station and the effect from the flare. Even the sound (noise) from the station / flare is so threatening that sometimes it is like we should pack our loads and run. The roaring of the flare, especially at night is very worrisome. Worst of all is the situation whereby we have been denied our means of livelihood for no cause of ours. The government should please do something to assist us. For me, I have just delivered a babe and, even if I cannot go out to farm or fish right now, my other family members have to struggle for our survival as I can do no work now.”

Madam Tadah Dumonafigha
“All our fishing nets have been rendered useless by the recent spill. We are poor people, as you know. How can we easily replace these damaged finishing nets? That apart, the flow station that is so close to us is affecting our roofing sheets. We are often enveloped by thick smock from the Obama flow station, yet we see no benefit from the proceeds of the oil business. You people (ERA) should not just come and talk to us please we are in dire need of help. Ours is a never ending story!”

Mr. Irofakuma Daniel (A.k.a.-Thunder):
One fellow from Dorgu Ama recently saw the serious gas leakage at the spill site and reported the matter to the Agip supervisor at the Obama flow station. The supervisor also went and confirmed it not too long before this spill we now suffer. It is very unfortunate that even though Agip was aware that there was leakage at the site before the actual spill, they now attribute the spillage to sabotage. To make things worst, they did not take independent persons or groups to the site to prove their case of sabotage even as they make effort to repair the pipe. They simply invite their contractor, go to site with such contractors and effect repairs – as they have just done now – to avoid payment of compensation. This is not only wrong, it is wicked. Sabotage is claimed just to avoid paying compensation. Something should be urgently done to save our people from the antics of Agip”.

JOHN SALOLOMO:
“Sometime ago, due to the proximity to the flow station, we held a meeting with Agip at the Obama flow station with a view to getting electricity and water from the company. We also thought, it could afford us the opportunity to demand for a road to link us with Dorgu Ama (about 400 metres away) to enhance commercial and social activities between our people. This is so because, by canoe or boat, we have to go round and round before getting to the other town. But, Agip’s head office at Brass said we are not a host community. They said that we have no right to come and discuss with them. Before we could know, they sent their military men from Brass to come and arrest some of us, including me. They took us to Brass, beat and detained us and threatened to take us to Benin City. This was after they had detained us and violated us in several ways. Now, see how we suffer the effect of their spill”.

TESTIMONIES FROM BASUO TEREKE COMMUNITY (Along Tereke River):    
Chief O.B. Kombo (APE):
“We have suffered from the effects of this spill for about 3 weeks now. As you know, fishing is our main source of livelihood and since this ugly incident, our fishing activity has been very demanding.  We now have to travel far to fish as most of the fishes alive seem to have relocated to safer environments. Apart from nets being damaged, fishes die on their own in great numbers. Our farmlands have also been destroyed and our main crops cassava, plantain, pineapple, palm have been affected. The land has suffered general pollution and how do we expect it to be as fruitful as expected in a natural environment? Since the pipes (oil pipes) of Agip are just about 10 meters from our houses, we are a host community. But, there is nothing to show for all these.

Our only source of drinking water is the Tereke river, which is now heavily polluted. Our people, mostly women, now have to paddle to Okoroma to fetch drinking water. We could have fetched from Agip flow station at Obama, but the military men would not allow us”.

Madam Ebiere Kombo
“Sometimes when people are sent to go and fetch water at Okoroma, we wait endlessly to the extent that, we take the risk to drink some of the polluted river water – out of thirst. The effect of the above is that, our children and even some adults get badly affected. They vomit, suffer from diarrhea and often got feverish. Skin problems and scratching becomes a direct consequence of bathing in the river that is now polluted. Must it continue like this? We hope people like you will help us get our voices heard. You have witnessed for yourself how the oil spill is everywhere around us. How can we get fish in this condition?”

TESTIMONY AT TEINTEREKE:    
On getting to Teintereke, ERA established contact with the Amayanabo of the town, Chief Godwill A. Sam. He is the Paramount ruler of the community. Besides other remarks, he said “we don’t know anything about sabotage, but we saw this oil on our river and it has been here since 10th September, 2007. As you can see, due to the high tide the crude oil is every where in our land and right inside the community. We are even afraid to light our lamps at night or to make fire to cook. Those who have generator assist those who don’t have so as to avoid fire. The volume of the crude on the river was very great and the pollution has rendered the river useless for our main occupation – which his fishing. Most of our nets could no longer be retrieved from the creeks and swamps. Apart from fish, other aquatic lives like periwinkles have all been destroyed. We find it very hard to get drinking water now. How many of us can afford the so-called pure water (sachet water)? Our people have to go as far as Nembe and other towns that have boreholes to fetch drinking water.

“The present situation has serious health implications on my people. Even now before you came I was also feeling sick and was lying in bed. It is all due to the intake of the polluted water or using it to bathe. Stomach problem and itching is very rife.

In the past when we experienced a similar sad situation there was no compensation. This is what we suffer from Agip. We have appealed to the government to assist us with a borehole but nothing has come our way. Sometime in 2005, some officials came from Abuja to sink a borehole here. But, after taking several measurements and drilling attempts at the site provided by the community the people disappeared till date. We have neither heard from the Federal, State or Local government since then. Yes, in relation to this spill, my community reported the matter to the authorities in Yenagoa and although the State authorities have visited us and promised to come to our aid, we are yet to see any positive move in that direction. We are calling on the government and Agip to assist us with relief materials before other talks because we have been economically dislocated”.

RECOMMENDATIONS
1)    Both the state government and Agip should send relief materials to the affected communities.

2)    Immediate steps should be taken to build water works in the communities, connect them to the national electricity grid or provide electricity plants to take care of the people’s water and power needs.

3)    The creeks and rivers should be cleaned up and steps should be taken to remediate the environmental impacts.

4)    Medical assistance should be rendered to the people.

5)    All the affected persons should be compensated as, the “polluter must pay” for damage suffered.

6)    Agip should stop using the military to threaten or violate the rights of the people.

7)    The government should discharge her duty of ensuring the security of the people.


WHAT YOU CAN DO

1.    Send a letter to your legislator (Local Government, State and National) to call Agip to order. Demand a clean up of the spill from the Obama Flow Station.
2.    Write to Agip and demand that they should repair their faulty equipment and compensate the communities and the people for the havoc wreaked on their environment and means of livelihood.
3.    Demand that Agip is to clean up and detoxify the creeks, rivers and lands of the people.

 
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