The people of Agge community in Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State have called on the government, at all levels, and relevant agencies to come to their aid.
Their clarion call was for the governments to save their community from being washed away by ocean surge, occasioned by high rise of water from the Atlantic Ocean, especially in this rainy season.
Agge is a border community with Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State, where the tributaries of the Atlantic Ocean pass through, and the community has been facing problems of a flood, landslide, and other forms of environmental devastation.
According to residents, the ocean surge experienced in the community this year has affected the business life of the community, as the water level is gradually growing in the community.
Already, those living around the river bank have abandoned their homes and moved uptown to forestall any danger the rise in water level or landslide could cause to the area.
Some residents also ascribed their predicaments to the activities of dredging companies and some multinational oil companies whose activities have damaged the natural flow of water.
The Bayelsa State government is projecting a deep seaport in the area, to utilize the natural deep water in the community, necessitated by the Atlantic Ocean, and Governor Seriake Dickson had promised to complete the seaport in Agge before the end of his tenure.
A resident of the community, Kolawale Princewill, while recounting the loss caused by the incessant ocean surge, told our correspondent that because of the ocean surge, people are afraid to stay close to the river, while those who sum up courage to do so do not sleep at night, in order to watch the movement of water.
He said several people have relocated to other communities in Warri, Delta State, an action that has affected the commercial life of the community, adding that there is no easy access to the area from Bayelsa State, except Warri in Delta State.
Another resident, Mr. Ogiri Tarikeme said if the government does not take proactive measures, one day, the people of the area will wake up and see the Atlantic Ocean flowing into the community and submerging every structure.
He said the seafood business in the area, which is the major occupation of the people is suffering due to the problem of erosion.
Recently, Agge Federated Communities protested over the shoreline erosion, which has washed away some big portions of land and is extending to the residential areas.
A protest letter signed by the Chairman of Agge Federated Community Development Committee (CDC), Mr. Authority German, read in part, “We the Agge federated communities cry out to both the state and federal governments of Nigeria.
“In 2013, a shoreline protection contract was awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to Beks Kemes Nigeria Limited but the contract was abandoned by the company in 2014.
“If the contract was completed, it would have saved us from the menace of the ocean surge.
“Here, we host a company called Sterling Oil Exploration and Energy Production Company Limited (SEEPCO) Nigeria.
“They have been operating in our communities since 2011 but they are not assisting the communities with good economic development programs to encourage the development of the communities.
“Their vessels operating in the Ramos River are generating huge waves which have caused great erosion to the communities. The company has over ten vessels sailing with crude oil through the Ramos River yet no employment was given to any person from the communities.
“During the transfer of crude oil from the barges to the vessels, there is a lot of crude oil spilt into the river which affects the fishing business of the people, a major occupation of the indigenes. This has affected the economy and standard of living.
“This company promised to sand-fill the waterfront (shoreline protection) of Agge communities because of the erosion affecting the communities, but never kept to the promise, the Bayelsa State Government has not been of any help to Agge.
“They promised a seaport but instead of building it, they are now building an army barracks in the community. They destroyed the people’s houses, farm crops, and trees without paying compensation to the people. The Bayelsa State Government has conspired with the Nigerian Army to take our land forcefully without due process.”
The Paramount Ruler of Agge community, Chief David Giant Isiaye, called on the management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to mobilize the Beks Kemes Nig Ltd to return to the site and expedite work towards the completion of the N4bn sand filling and shore protection project in Agge .
He said several houses in the community have been claimed by the landslide occasioned by ocean surge, adding that in the rainy season when river tide grows higher, it’s difficult for an average indigene of Agge to sleep with both eyes closed at night.
He complained that the project, originally scheduled for completion within a year, had been abandoned for more than four years now, without the government and other people concerned considering the plight of Agge people.
He said the continued delay poses a grave danger to the people as more communities are on the verge of extinction owing to the tidal effect of the ocean, while families that left their ancestral land are yet to return because the sand filling was yet to be completed.
Incidentally, flooding and other environmental issues have been some of the perennial problems facing virtually every Bayelsa community, due to the topography and terrain of the state, coupled with the activities of multinational oil companies.
The most affected communities in the state include those in Ekeremor, Brass, Nembe and Southern Ijaw local governments, where the tributaries of the Atlantic Ocean crisscross.
Worried by this predicament, the state government, in March this year, set up an international oil and gas community to look into the root cause of the environmental issues and proffer a lasting solution.
The committee is yet to submit its report. A few weeks ago, a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) championing the fight against climate change and environmental degradation in the Niger Delta region, ‘Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre’ during it sensitization workshop in the Odi community of the state ascribed the incidence of flooding and intense heat in the region to oil mineral extraction activities.
The Executive Director of the centre, Mrs. Emem Okon, said the sensitization programme tagged; ‘Women, oil and climate change’ were meant to enlighten the people about the menace of climate change, adding that the people of the region are suffering from the impacts of oil, mineral extraction which contributes to the climate change manifestation such as flooding, intense heat, low crop yield and other issues that affect the society.
Okon explained that as parts of the measures to assuage the problems and impacts of climate change in Nigeria society, environmental stakeholders have advocated for government’s implementation of the national policy and action plans on climate change because it’s a faster means to mitigate the impacts on the people.
The traditional ruler and Amayanaowei of Odi Kingdom, King Shine Apre , warned against dumping refuse in the rivers, which he said endangers aquatic lives and causes flooding.
The Bayelsa State Commissioner for Environment, Engr. Udengse Eradiri, could not be reached for reaction, as he was said to be out of town when our reporter visited his office, but during an interview with a state-based radio station last weekend, he warned Bayelsans against dumping refuse in waterways, a situation, he said, that causes flooding and environmental pollution.