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TASTE OF HELL

Posted by By FEMI FOLARANMI, Yenagoa on 2005/06/14 | Views: 678 |

TASTE OF HELL


For those who believe in heaven and hell, a trip to Imringi in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State is enough foretastes of what to expect of hell as gas flared from a Shell flow station form a permanent bright orange glow in the sky haunting the entire community.

For those who believe in heaven and hell, a trip to Imringi in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State is enough foretastes of what to expect of hell as gas flared from a Shell flow station form a permanent bright orange glow in the sky haunting the entire community.

The serenity of Imiringi, which earned it “Land of Hospitality” among neighbouring communities has been so brutally interrupted that instead of cool breeze at night, hot air is the order of the day. Not only that, the penetrating heat has left the people with skin diseases, while corrugated iron roofing sheets that should normally last for 10 - 12 years are replaced every three years.

Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Bayelsa branch, Mr. Jude Rex-Ogbuku, a native of Imringi, opened up more to Daily Sun: “A lot of the illness the people have here are associated with this gas flaring. Chronic rashes on the skin and tuberculosis are visited on the people.

If you take a look at the corrugated roof sheets, those ones still in good shape are between two to three years. Because of the intensive heat roofing sheets are replaced in less than five years. By that time gas flaring would have made the roofs to be leaking. This definitely takes toll on the financial situation of the people, who are predominantly poor.”
A community leader, Chief Augustine Okpu, further lamented:

“We don’t have darkness again, night here is like daytime. Nobody dare say he or she wants to relax outside for cool breeze. Talk of acid rain. Look at our corrugated sheets; what of our water? It is polluted. The health of the people is deteriorating. The people cannot take a rest from the hassles of life. Our people are already in hell before they die.”

Rex- Ogbuku heaped the blame of the continued flare of gas on the Federal Government. “In advanced countries, gas flaring is a serious offence, because it emits carbon and other chemicals dangerous to human existence. As an Ogbia man from Imringi, I feel bad. Unfortunately, the actions I can take are limited. Limited in the sense that as a lawyer the only option open to me is to go to court, but the court also has its limitations.

“The Federal Government on its own accord continues to shift the goal post of the date for gas flaring to stop. If the government was alive to its responsibilities and insist that it should stop, oil companies would have no option than to obey. But due to government inaction, successive governments just come in, see how it can partner with the oil companies and gets what it wants at the expense of the people. This is a way of telling us that our existence does not matter.”

Okpu also shared this sentiment: “Gas flaring has not stopped because of the insensitivity of government to the cries of the people of the Niger Delta. The rest of the country would insist Niger Delta people are restive but they don’t want to know why we are restive. A lot of things contribute to this and gas flaring is one of it.”

As it is with the people of Imiringi, so it is with their counterparts in Ikarama. Indeed, life for the inhabitants of Ikarama community in Okordia/ Zarama/ Biseni Local Government Area is everything but easy. Driving through the community there is no proof that it is an oil producing community, as raw pain is the only evidence the people bear as a contributor to Nigeria’s oil industry.
The people of Ikarama have to walk miles to the neigbouring Joinkarama community in Rivers State to have access to health facilities. There is no health centre in the community. The only health centre built by AGIP six years ago is without personnel and equipment. In fact since its completion, it has been under lock and key.

Francis Daniel, former vice- chairman of the Community Development Committee, told Daily Sun: “AGIP has seven oil wells in this community. When they came here in 1984, they embarked on some projects, like town hall, health centre and water scheme with their own contractors. We approached them and requested for a MoU. But they told us that we should allow them to finish the project. These projects have been abandoned while there is no MoU for the community. They are just playing hide and seek with us.”

Primary education is also a casualty in Ikarama community. The community contributed and built a school in 1979, but the building has become dilapidated forcing the children to seek refuge in the old

Anglican Church building.
The paramount ruler of the community, Chief Johnson Isikeme, told Daily Sun that the community has been helpless because the people could no longer contribute to community development due to poverty.
Though Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, has no oil well in the community, it, however, has a manifold that receives supply from its 76 oil wells scattered in the area for onward delivery to Rivers State. Because of the strategic location of Ikarama to Shell’s operation, it promised to build a school for the community in 2000. Five years later that promise is yet to be fulfilled.

The only gift by AGIP to the community - a bridge constructed in 1988 - has since become a death trap as people fall from it into the water and all pleas that AGIP should put it back into shape has been ignored.

The security officer of the community, Comrade Experience, laments: “Ours is a sad story. The AGIP bridge is now a death trap. Most of our women and children fall effortlessly into the water sustaining serious injury. We have called AGIP to repair the bridge but all our pleas have fallen on deaf ears.”
Isikeme and the Ikarama community believes government has left their fate to the oil companies, which have shown utter contempt to them.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.