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Lagos communities accuse oil firm of environmental pollution

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Fishermen lamenting their plight in Badagry, Lagos

The oil exploration by an an indigenous firm, Yinka Folawiyo Petroleum Company may have pitched the firm against the Badagry communities in Lagos State.

The Guardian gathered that the company, which according to its Group Managing Director, Mr. Tunde Folawiyo has invested about $400 million in the last 25 years, is now a major environmental and health concerns to the host communities.

The cost of development and its effect has also posed serious threat to the depleting ozone layer but worse still is the danger on the life and livelihoods as well as the environment around where gas is flared.

Just as it happened in the Niger Delta region, there are threats to both human habitation and the economic life of the communities, whose major occupations are fishing and farming.

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Community like Ajido, which happens to be nearest kingdom to the exploration field is complaining that it has worsened the environmental impacts and ecological problems.

The Guardian visits to the communities show discontentment among the residents, who complained of the effect of the exploration on their means of livelihood and health as well as neglect in the entire process.

They also claimed the environmental impact assessment process for the oil exploration was not in line with the world best practices and one of the requisites for starting such oil exploration and exploitation.

The adverse effect on Ajido and its environs include acid rain, which reduces fertility of the soil as evidenced by the low crop yields, skin irritation and disorder leading to rashes and possibly cancer as well as rise in temperature, which they said has led to stunted growth and withering commercial plants like mat stalks, coconut trees, cassava, maize, decline in coconut productivity and other farm produce.

The same discontentment goes for Gberefu Island and other neigbouring communities within the zone.

According to a fisherman at Gberefu Island, Badagry, one of the affected communities, Semako Taseyon, the oil exploration has reduced the quantity of fishes because of the light associated with the flying of gas.

Taseyon, a father of four, said making ends meet has become a challenge as a result of the exploration.

His view was collaborated by a 65- year old fisherman at Ajido community, Mr. Rasaki Agosi, who was forced to withdraw his nets from sea because of fish draught.

Agosi, who lamented that their trauma started two years ago, said, they could not even raise N7, 000 to buy fuel for the fishing boat and their normal fish depot has gone dry.

He said: “Before now, people from Agbara used to come and buy fish from us because we are one of the largest suppliers in Lagos but that is not the case anymore.

“My son, has gone to learn carpentry, when it dawned on us that we cannot continue like this. We need urgent intervention in order to take care of our families and needs,” he said.

The Numeton 1 of Gberefu Island Badagry, Dr. Adeniyi Sanni said the oil exploration, which started in 2016, has impacted negatively on his community.

He claimed that it has driven fishes to 100 metres away making the famous fishing community a shadow of its old self.

Beyond the impact on the fishes, he also claimed that coconuts trees are now turning brownish without much heads, thereby reducing production. Apart from that there is also excessive heat.

He urged authorities to do the needful as they have been neglected to avoid the issue of kidnapping and vandalisation of pipelines witnessed in the Niger Delta.

The traditional ruler said they are not only aware of any environmental impact assessment; the fishermen are no longer catching fishes because of the impact of flaring gases at night.

Before, one coconut tree can produce about 300 heads of coconuts, now it has gone down to about 50 heads, while cassava yield, which is another chief crop has also reduced drastically.

Speaking also on the issue, the Akran of Badagry, De Wheno Aholu Menu – Toyi 1, said although the oil is a blessing, the communities have not got much from the oil product in terms of revenue and infrastructure.

Lamenting the level of infrastructural decay in Badagry Kingdom, the Akran said the community was not also involved in the environment impact assessment study before the commencement of the exploration.

According to him, although the company comes around some time to renovate schools in Badagry, they still need to do more.

In terms of employment, he stressed that none of his wards has so far been employed.

“The oil money is not coming to us in Badagry, they sent it to Lagos. Government and the oil firm should do the needful in order to prevent the Niger Delta debacle,” he added.

But the Aholu of Ajido Kingdom, Oba Saheed Abioro said they have engaged the oil firms but have not seen any result yet.

He claimed that even when they visited, they concentrated on Badagry town alone without visiting to the other communities like Ajido kingdom.

He said the community, which used to be a melting point for fish merchant from Lagos has been left unattended to.

Beyond the effect on the fishing business, Oba Abioro said the oil exploration has led to the extinction of significant natural herbs traditionally used to heal some ailments.

For instance, the bio-detector of pollutants on the beach ridge, local known as Husho which is used to bathe children having rashes and some other skin infections.

This medicinal plant, he said, is fast declining more than ever, while research has proven that acid rain destroys vegetation such as shrub and herbs.

He also claimed that over 70 per cent of corrugated roofs have been corroded as a result of the exploration.

The misfortunes from the exploration, he said, were noticed abut 14 months ago, fishing tools suffer incessant tears and wears like nets, canoes.

Indigenes said unemployment is now on a large scale in Ajido because it is a traditional commerce oriented kingdom which survive on inherited traditional business activities like fishing, farming, pottery, mat weaving and production of coconut oil.

For instance, the coconut oil industry situated at Apasa Jetty, Ajido has gone moribund because the raw material, because coconut, can no longer be easily accessed. Fishermen are tired of going to fishing with a very low expectation. Coconut maturation of 3-4 months leading to 3-4 time annual bountiful harvests is no longer realisable.

Also, the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) said they have not been involved in the activities of the oil firm.

The General manager of the agency, Mr. Ayodele Antonio, who could not ascertain whether environmental assessment was done for the project, however directed enquiries on the issue to the ministry of energy.
But the communities are asking for 50 per cent employment opportunities for youth across all cadre in Aje-Oil company as well as building research institute that will admit, train and employ them.

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Oba Saheed Abioro, who pledged that the communities will remain peaceful and supportive to the Aje -Oil company and other developmental programmes of the state and federal government, however demanded for health centres that will serve and treat all skin disorder/ ailment and respiratory diseases for free.

He further called for compensations for fishermen and farmers, revamping the coconut oil industry at Apapa Jetty Ajido to better the life of the rural dwellers and build human capital development schemes for the benefits of the host communities.

But Yinka Folawiyo Petroleum Ltd said it had shown glimpses of a socially responsible company, since the commencement of its operation. This fact they said was acknowledged by High Chief Hundogan Samuel, the Agoloto of Badagry, who said the company refurbished and donated laboratory equipment valued at N14million to four schools in the community.

The benefiting schools are Badagry Senior Grammar School, Methodist High School, Ansarudeen Senior High School and Topo Senior High School.

“We want the youth to be empowered. We don’t want what is happening in Niger Delta to happen to us in Badagry. If the youths are properly engaged, they will not have time for militancy,” Chief Hundogan noted.


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