By GbaramatuVoice Editorial Board The refusal by Senator (Dr.) Ifeanyi Okowa’s led Delta State Government to respond promptly or lead in the effort to rehabilitate the people of Polobubo/Opuama Communities in Warri North Local Government Area, ravaged by oil spill from pipeline facility managed by the NPDC/ELCRES, in the early hours of Sunday, March 14, 2021, has become the latest prove of neglect, betrayal and abandonment of a people that they (state Government) supposed to protect.
Making this particular spill a reality to worry about is that among many others, this latest spillage is coming few weeks after a similar one occurred in Benikrukru, Kokodiagbene, Oporoza and other communities in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South West Local Government Area of the state, this time around involving the pipeline owned and managed by Chevron Nigeria Limited. While no death was recorded, the incident however led to many of the community dwellers being hospitalized as result of the shock and pollution. Chevron on its part added to the pains of the victims/communities with their persistent denial of such occurrence.
In the face of all these happenings, Governor Okowa’s led administration for yet to be identified reason(s) allowed the oil major to hand twist the helpless and hapless community dwellers. Today, the above attitude that which bothers on Delta State Government lackadaisical and nonchalant attitude to the plight of average coastal dwellers – and inability of regulators in the state to go extra miles to ensure compliance in their operations is being replicated in the case of Polobubo/Opuama Communities.
As the world watches in ‘awe’ at the people of the communities count their loses over the occurrence that reportedly left one Pa Anthony Ebiogbo of Opuama community dead with many others battling for survival, there are in fact major reasons that made the state government culpable and their management of the occurrence a very painful episode.
First, the Government in the state cannot in any ways claim ignorance of the spillage as they were promptly alerted via a press statement made available in Polobubo by one Mr. Toruwei, a community leader, which GbaramatuVoice, as a responsive and responsible media organization operating in the Niger Delta region, promptly reported. Regrettably, on Wednesday March 17, 2021, the House of Assembly Member Representing Warri North in the Delta House of Assembly, Hon. Alfred Martins; Commissioner for Oil and Gas in the state, Hon. Emmanuel Amgbaduba and Chairman, Warri North Local Government Council, Hon. Smart Asekutu, visited Polobubo/Opuama Communities. But their visits could best be described as unceremonious and an insult to the sensibility of the victims and the communities. As they (Government Officials) neither came with words of hope/consolation nor relief materials for the victims of the spillages. This abandonment of the communities in their hour of need by the state government has necessitated the following questions; what is the role/responsibility of the Delta State Ministry of Environment if not to act in a period such as this? Where are the officials of the State Environmental Protection Agency? What is the usefulness of the Delta State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (DESOPADEC) if not to intervene in issues such as this as well as development of holistic roadmap for the development of the Oil Producing areas in the state? What is the state Government doing with the 13% derivation accruable to the state if not to handle such occurrences? Why the state government can’t hold the oil company accountable? And most importantly, Why must the state have to wait for the Federal Government agencies before it can save its people? To further add insight to our earlier claim that the incident was promptly reported, it was stated in that publication that Mr. Toruwei, the community leader, narrated how major pipeline transporting crude oil from Opuama flow station in Oil Mining Lease (OML 40) ruptured, resulting to spillage of oil into the water and swamp forest in the operational area which includes Opuama, Polobubo and their bloc/satellite communities. “As I speak, economic activities have been grounded, as a matter of fact, throughout Sunday, March 14, 2021; residents could not cook their food for fear of fire outbreak as a result of gas gushing out from the said pipeline that enveloped the whole vicinity.” There are so many other facts that point to how the state government failed the people of the communities. The communities called the Governor of Delta State, Dr. Okowa to prevail on the management of NPDC/ELCREST to swing into action and take remedial actions by containing the further spread of the spillage. Yet, nothing was heard from the state government.
In the same vein, they (affected communities) also pleaded that the state provides medical care, food, water and other necessities in order to save the lives of residents that have been denied their sources of livelihood.” Instead of responding to these requests by the affected communities, the state government was particularly more interested in protecting the interest of the oil companies. Sadly, it will interest Governor Okowa’s led state government to know that the Oil Giant which they are protecting and which earlier denied spillage of any form in the Gbaramatu kingdom, has since gone behind to seek remedies. From this spiraling awareness, if not wickedness, what else can the watching world call the state government’s abandonment of the people of Egbema and Gbaramatu kingdoms in this trying moment of theirs? In the final analysis, there is no difference between the state government and their federal counterpart. In fact, it appears the state under the present administration is getting worse than the Federal Government when it comes to neglecting its people.