OGULAGHA: IN SPITE OF ECONOMIC VIABILITY, RISK FACING EROSION
Oil-rich Ogulagha Kingdom, which plays host to Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), and Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC), is a coastal Ijaw Kingdom in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State. The community is a hotbed for oil exploration and is surrounded by multi-billion naira oil facilities of the multinational oil companies and Government, such as the Forcados Terminal.
In spite of the huge wealth Ogulagha generates to the nation and multinationals, the community has been facing the challenge of flooding and erosion over the years, which the government, including multinationals have not deemed it fit to ameliorate the enormous sufferings of the people. It is lamentable to note that this community has lost some parts of its land to the sea due to erosion. It is worth noting that, the incessant flooding and erosion experienced by this community prompted the building of a Sea Wall, in order to protect the seashore, by the Nigerian Westminister Dredging and Marine (NWDM), in the vicinity of the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Forcados Export Terminal. The purpose of the Sea Wall was not to protect the terminal from high tides alone, but also to contribute towards the community, in terms of protecting it against threat of erosion occasioned by the big tidal waves.
A recent visit to the community by Gbaramatu Voice Newspaper indicates that the story has changed as some parts of the seashore protection wall have started collapsing, thereby posing a great danger to flooding and erosion.
Ogulagha indigenes could not hide their feelings but pour out their minds on erosion and collapse of the seashore wall. Speaking with our crew, Youth President of Ogulagha Youth Association, Comrade Bright Guwor; Rt. Honourable Eddy Igongon, Former Speaker Ogulagha Community, Representative Council, and Mr. Akposzua, former Financial Secretary of Ogulagha Youth All said that During time of high tide, the river usually overflows its banks, leading to flooding and erosion of the community shore and lost of some part of the community lands to the sea. Ogulagha community has lost most of her houses that were located at the seashore to the sea, as they were washed into the sea.
In a tour round the sea, we were shown of a seashore protection that was constructed 24 years ago. Investigation revealed that when the seashore was built at one side of the sea as at then, there were agitations that the same should be extended to the other side, because of the massive erosion that was been experienced as at then. It must be noted here that, the peace loving people of Ogulagha had applied different means such as dialogue, writing and even peaceful protest, just to ameliorate the menace of flood and erosion, but to no avail. Human being seems to understand violence than peace. This peace loving people were made edgy and this made them shutting down operation of Shell before they came to their rescue.
Our investigation further reveals that the collapse of the seashore protection was as a result of sub-standard work done, and this makes the water to advance to the other side of the piling, whenever there is high tide.
One of the community dwellers speaks: “We have made efforts as to how this will be reconstructed again but our efforts were thwarted as at then. Even as we speak now, in the whole of this line there were a lot of houses that were here before but because of erosion, as you can see the signs here, for now it is because of the low tide, and when it’s high tide we don’t know what will happen; we can’t really explain because it is going to be disastrous here.
“Now we have taken our time to explain all of these to Shell to see the reason why they have to come to our aid but they haven’t been able to do anything positive about it. Many at times we have been ascribed as peace loving community and all of that, and when we hear that it makes us go angry because it is as if we cannot carry arms and ammunitions but it is not a good practice; we don’t want to indulge ourselves in such kinds of practices, so we’ve been in the path of preaching peace so that all that we need to achieve will be achieved through dialogue and peace”
Ogulagha Community is a riverine terrain that is well blessed with different natural resources allegedly hosting over 20 wellheads. The natural resources embedded by God in the community, perhaps makes the community to be surrounded by oil companies that carry out exploration activities on a daily basis, yet the people in the community can be liking to “having abundance but living in poverty” .
Also notable in the community is what can be refer to as a natural port. This natural port if put into use would create hundreds of employment to indigenes and non indigenes of the community. The irony is that, while God has made easy by providing this, oil companies are busy dredging inlands to create Port.
Ogulagha is exposed to the Atlantic Ocean; the boundary of Nigeria with many coastal countries; all you need to do is to go to River Remos and the Forcados River. From this community, one can easily travel to any part of the world. But rather than taking advantage of this natural endowment, it has been rather abandoned.
It is Imperative at this juncture for the government to take urgent and responsible step to rescue this peace loving community before it goes into extinction as the community has already lost more than two hundred buildings to flood in recent times.
Ogulagha Community is quite different when it comes to politics, that should not be an excuse for government neglecting it. As said earlier, this community, though feeding the nation, yet they are living in hardship and fear. It is feared that if nothing is done in the next five years, Ogulagha might go onto oblivion. It is therefore necessary for the State, Federal and multinational oil companies operating in the community to rescue it by providing the necessary modalities to prevent It from eroding away. A stitch in time saves nine.
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