Egi Joint Action Congress (EJAC), a representative think tank of the Egi Community in Rivers State, which produces the highest volume of oil in Rivers State and in tandem, in Nigeria, has petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari to conduct a forensic environmental audit of their land to determine its efficacy for human habitation after more than half a Century of oil prospecting and drilling, among others.
Coincidentally, Tuesday, August 4, 2015 marks the 4th anniversary of the damning report of the assessment of Ogoni environment conducted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) at the request of the Federal Government. It also marked four years of government’s inactivity on the remediation steps prescribed by UNEP for the government and oil companies.
But EJAC is not deterred. It seeks the environmental audit first fearing the worst that the degradation of its environment may be equally as bad as the Ogoni environment audit findings – if not worse.
In a petition dated, July 14, 2015, jointly signed by four prominent citizens of Egiland in EJAC, they complained that Total Elf Petroleum Nigeria Ltd (TEPNG), the joint venture oil major which prospects for oil and gas in their community, has contributed largely to the degradation of their environment and destruction of their socio-economic life and livelihood with their productive activities there since 1964.
“Egiland in Rivers State is host to Total Elf Petroleum Nigeria. With about 12.5 percent of the total onshore oil production of Nigeria, Egiland is the highest oil-producing community in Rivers State and in Nigeria,” the petition explained.
Their grouse is that TPENG has contributed largely to the destruction of their environment and socio-economic activities without adequately compensating the community with its social responsibility programmes.
Now, they got hints that TPENG was making clandestine efforts to divest from the company, sell its equity interest to a foreign shareholder without due regard to the deplorable state into which it has plunged Egiland.
Therefore, they are requesting the Federal Government to initiate the process for a forensic audit of Egiland.
The petition, signed by Eze Zion Omerkwe, Executive Chairman of the Council; Barr Azubuike O. Ibegwura, Secretary; Professor Joel G. Chinwah, Chairman, Board of Trustees and Apostle Che I. Ibegwura, Deputy Chairman, BOT, was copied to UN Human Rights Council, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth (ERA/FoEN) and other unlisted human rights organisations worldwide.
The petition was first addressed to former president Goodluck Jonathan on May 7, 2015. His failure to act on it made EJAC re-channel it to the successor Buhari government.
Some of the damning UNEP report released on August 4, 2011, about Ogoniland which EJAC believes will equally apply to Egiland, included hydrocarbon pollution in surface water throughout the creeks up to 8.00cm and in groundwater that feeds drinking wells at 41 sites, including a serious case at Nisisioken Ogale in Eleme, Rivers State. Soils were found to have been polluted with hydrocarbons up to a depth of five metres in 49 observed sites, while benzene, a known carcinogen, was found in drinking water at a level 900 times above World Health Organization’s (WHO) acceptable levels.
Harmful chemical dispersants such as Slickgone NS, Corexit 9500 and 9527 and Biosolve, which SPDC used to break down and disperse its spilled crude at Bonga field, in turn spread to the fishing areas, where they became the causes of the diseases afterwards prevalent in the communities.
Common ailments affecting the communities included mental disorders, hypertension, eye irritations, nose, throat and skin lesions; vomiting and rectal bleeding; liver and kidney damage; short-term memory loss and confusion; respiratory problems, miscarriages, blood in urine contamination.
In addition, gas flaring has continued unabated in the Niger Delta with Shell keeping almost 100 gas flares burning, day and night. Several other studies pointed to the devastating effects of gas flaring on people and the environment which showed that gas flaring has had known effects on the Ogoni people and their environment such as noise pollution, itching and skin rashes, the discomfort generated by the light from the flare sites, black dust and soot that settle in people’s homes and on food and clothes thereby undermining the quality of life and the right of the people to live in a healthy environment in which to fulfill their potential.
Other deleterious consequences of gas flaring are acid rain, which acidifies the lakes and streams and damages crops and vegetation, and corrodes roofs. It is also a known carcinogen which affects human health, including causing miscarriages and congenital malformations, increasing the frequency of respiratory illnesses and cancer, among other ailments that have sent hundreds to their early graves. Its sulphur leads to low farm yields, affecting the farming livelihood of the people.