Ecosystem Destruction: Polobubo community demands immediate clean-up, remediation, land reclamation, others from government, oil companies
By Loveth Ojogun
Oil-rich Polobubo-Tsekelewu community in Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State, has sent a Save-Our-Soul message to the Nigerian government and International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in the area over alleged deforestation, destruction of their ecosystem, etc.
The community spoke through the President-General, Dr. Bright Abulu; Revd. T.D. Clement, General Secretary and Mr. Christmas Ukugha, PRO at a world press conference to commemorate the 2022 World Environment Month (June) in Warri on Wednesday.
The community accused Chevron, Shell and NPDC of polluting their erstwhile fresh water by opening up their water bodies to the Atlantic Ocean in the process of oil exploration, thereby allowing saline to contaminate the water.
According to them, there was nothing to show that oil and gas companies operate in their land.
The community in a strong message to President Muhammadu Buhari, Minister of State Petroleum, the Minister of Environment, the Chairman, NASS Committee on the Environment; the Chairman/MD – Nigeria Upstream Petroleum Regulation Commission (NUPRC); Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa- The Executive Governor, Delta State, Asaba; the Commissioner, Ministry of Environment, Delta State, Asaba; the Chairman- Delta State House of Assembly, Committee on the Environment; and the Head, United Nations Environmental Programme, UNEP, Abuja, among others, demanded the cleaning, remediation and reparation of the environment, land reclamation and shoreline protection, canalisation and dredging of Opuama-Tsekelewu creeks, among others, by the oil firms.
In the event tagged “Only One Earth, Only One Homeland, Polobubo,” the community said: “We wish to urgently draw the attention of Chevron Nigeria Limited, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Nigeria Petroleum Development Company/Elcrest Nigeria limited JV (NPDC/ElCrest), Conoil Producing Nigeria Limited, Sahara Energy Services Limited, the Federal Government of Nigeria, Delta State Government, and the world to the human and environmental crisis facing our only homeland Polobubo (Tsekelewu). Polobubo, originally a freshwater environment with freshwater ecosystems has been replaced by a saltwater environment due to the exploration and exploitation of crude oil by companies operating in Polobubo/Tsekelewu community and sister communities.
“It will interest you to know that Polobubo (Tsekelewu) community is host to Chevron Nigeria Limited, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Nigeria Petroleum Development Company/Elcrest Nigeria limited JV (NPDC/ElCrest), Conoil Producing Nigeria Limited and Sahara Energy Services Limited.
“These companies have contributed to the devastation, pollution, and destruction of our ecosystems and brought Polobubo (Tsekelewu) community to its pitiable environmental condition.
“Negative Impact of Operations of Oil Companies on Polobubo (Tsekelewu) Environment. Chevron Nigeria Ltd in the 1980s, constructed a Western Bypass Canal to bring its equipment through the Atlantic Ocean for the construction of the Opuekeba Production Platform which led to the introduction of saline water into the natural fresh water and the destruction of the natural freshwater ecosystem in Polobubo community.
“Our fathers protested the Western Bypass Canal construction in the 1980s. They were molested and detained in Akure, Ondo State by Security Operatives. Several of our youth have also been killed by Security Operatives attached to the oil companies when they protested violations of our rights and the destruction of our environment over the years. Due to the construction of the Western Bypass Canal by Chevron Nigeria Limited, over time, siltation of the waterways around our community occurred, leading to mud sludge and siltation of the Oloduwa River leading to Polobubo community and other water bodies.
“The Polobubo waterways used to be 9 fathoms deep up to the 1970s, providing us abundant sustenance with a rich marine life and life-sustaining fresh water. Polobubo was known for its rich variety of fauna including antelopes, crocodiles, alligators, and manatees which we call ‘torufaowei,’ and big fishes such as the ‘ebah’ or ‘governor’ fish among others. We used to sell bush meat and catfish at Warri, Sapele, and other towns which are no more.
“Our environment contained a variety of huge economic trees including hardwoods, abura, azonia, black and white afara, cotton wood, and mangrove forests from which we built our homes and carve canoes. All these have been destroyed and the fauna killed or driven away by years of dynamite used during seismic operations, oil spills, gas flaring at the Opuekeba Production Platform, dredging of Opuekeba Production Platform wells slots without dredging the Polobubo (Tsekelewu) main creek.
“The consequence is the complete alteration of what used to be thick tropical forest, to open grassland for the entire area as you will find in savannah zones. What used to be a thick tropical forest in the Polobubo community has been altered to open grassland for miles around.
“The pollution of the ecosystem by the recent fire incident at the Chevron Nigeria Limited Ojumole/Ikpalakpalabu crude oil well #1 that occurred on April 18, 2019, and ended on June 30, 2019 (which lasted for 73 days), are some of the acts of genocide visited on Polobubo community by Chevron Nigeria Limited for the oil and gas resources in our land and waterways. To date, there has not been any remediation of the environment, payment of fair and adequate compensation in cash, or projects to the Polobubo community by Chevron Nigeria Limited.
“We have not slept on our rights and will continue to agitate until remediation of the Polobubo (Tsekelewu) environment and fair and adequate compensation is paid to Polobubo community.
“The Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) dredging through Polobubo community to Opuba crude oil production well #1 and #2, crude oil spills, gas flaring and pollution among others contributed to the deforestation and pollution of the land and air in the the Polobubo community.
“The Nigeria Petroleum Development Company and ElCrest Nigeria limited JV (NPDC/ElCrest) dredging of sections of the waterways to their crude oil wells made Polobubo/Tsekelewu section of the Oloduwa Creek to dry up, incessant oil spills due to equipment failure and continuous gas flaring at Opuama Flowstation.
“The continuous gas flaring at Opuama Flowstation, ongoing dredging and drilling operations without environmental impact assessment (EIA) and environmental remediation plan have negatively impacted Polobubo (Tsekelewu) community.
“The Conoil Producing Nigeria Limited ongoing dredging and drilling operations without environmental impact assessment (EIA) and agreed environmental remediation plan with Polobubo (Tsekelewu) community have over reaching negative impact on Polobubo community.
“Our demands are: Cleaning, remediation, and reparation of the environment should be executed for the Polobubo community by the federal government of Nigeria, Delta State Government, SPDC, Chevron Nigeria Limited, NPDC/ElCrest JV, and Conoil Producing Nigeria Limited as stated in the 2022 Nigeria Petroleum Industry Act, section 101(2, 3) by 2023.
“Land reclamation and shoreline protection projects should be executed for the Polobubo community by the federal government of Nigeria, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), and Delta State Government before 2024.
“Canalization and dredging of Opuama-Tsekelewu Creeks by the federal government, Chevron Nigeria Limited, and NPDC/ElCrest JV before 2024. Chevron Nigeria Limited should add the sweeping/dredging of Polobobu (Tsekelewu) Creek to its three (3) years Opuekeba Production Platform well head slots sweeping/dredging programs and execute the same in the next Well Heads Slot Sweeping/Dredging Campaign in 2023 and beyond.
“Pay fair and adequate compensation due to siltation, seasonal flooding, saltwater intrusion, loss of vegetation, loss of sources of livelihood, reduction in biodiversity, and the outbreak of water-borne/impounded diseases caused by devastation, pollution, and destruction of our ecosystems by SPDC, Chevron Nigeria Limited and NPDC/ElCrest JV before 2024.
“Execute sustainable development projects such as internal road networks, housing units, and electricity amongst others for Polobubo community by the federal government, Delta State Government, Chevron Nigeria Limited, Conoil Nigeria Limited, and NPDC/ElCrest JV by 2023.
“Special budgetary allocation should be made by the federal government, Delta State Government, and oil companies for environmental remediation and afforestation programs in Polobubo in 2023 and beyond.
“The Federal Ministry of Environment and Delta State Ministry of Environment should make special visits and investigations to Polobubo (Tsekelewu) community to see things for themselves in 2023.
“The immediate blockade of the Western Bypass Canal that linked Polobubo community to the Atlantic Ocean by Chevron Nigeria Limited and the Federal Ministry of Works before December 2025.
” Provision of portable drinking water and medical/health facilities & services by the federal government, Chevron Nigeria Limited and NPDC/ElCrest JV, and Conoil Producing Nigeria Limited before December 2023.
“In the interim, NPDC/ElCrest JV and Conoil should provide free routine medical outreach services to Polobubo communities before the end of 2023. Long term solution is the provision of a standard health facility well equipped with staff for Polobubo (Tsekelewu).
“Zero natural gas flare or vent into the Polobubo environment to prevent pollution and/or execute environmental remediation and relief to Polobubo community (as per the 2022 Nigeria Petroleum Industry Act, section 104 (4) by Chevron Nigeria Limited and NPDC/ElCrest JV, and Conoil Producing Nigeria Limited before December 2023.
“Put in place a flora regeneration policy and fauna reproduction policy within one year (2023) by the federal government of Nigeria and Delta State Government and the oil and gas companies operating in Tsekelewu communities.
“Institute Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project that will collaborate with Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Delta State Government, Amnesty office of the Presidency and companies operating within the community to develop robust empowerment programs for the youths and women in the community,” it concluded.