By Oluwayemi Davidson, Warri
Seven communities in Delta State have vowed to shutdown the operation of a multinational oil exploration firm operating in their land following alleged “lackluster, wicked and barbaric approach” of the company towards clean-up of the oil spill to their ancestral and farm lands.
The communities namely Erhobaro, Etavwobakai, Etewhia, Obaro-Uku, Ovara-Unukpo, Atagbuwe and Eroike, all in Ughelli North and Ethiope East Local Government Areas of Delta State, have already petitioned the Federal Government and the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) to call the oil firm, Heritage Energy Operational Services Limited (HEOSL) to order, to avert the looming crisis.
Representatives of the communities told journalists in Ughelli on Thursday that their ordeals had started since August 2019 when their farmlands, ponds, rivers and streams were overflowed with hydrocarbon (crude oil) from the failed facility of Heritage Energy Operational Services Limited.
Consequently, all the means of livelihood of our people, who are predominantly farmers got perished, leaving many households in the communities in acute poverty, hungry and suffering, they lamented.
According to the communities, several letters have been written to the oil firm and Joint Investigation Visits (JIV) by all affected stakeholders carried out while NOSDRA has even assured that the affected communities lands, ponds, rivers and streams would be cleaned up and adequate compensations paid by HEOSL “but since then till now, the company neither cleaned up the land nor pay compensations for the crops damaged”.
Their spokespersons comprising the trio of Chief Engr. John Ikushoni (President General, Erhoike Community), Chief Godwin Oviguareya (representing Land Owners) and Anibor Michael told newsmen that as an aftermath of the oil spillage from the faulty facilities of the HESOL, the affected communities have not had access to clean water since 2919 as all their lands are already polluted with crude oil.
They explained that all efforts to compel the oil firm to clean and refertilize their land to enable the people resume their farming activities have been abortive “as HEOSL has been paying deaf ears to our plights all these years”.
They said, “Anytime we meet them (HEOSL management), they continue to push us here and there, and at the end of the day they gave frivolous excuses because they feel they can go to the land and do anything they like.
“If the communities make any serious call on them to come and clean up the land, the next thing you see are military men threatening to kill our people and take over their communities from them”.
The communities pleaded passionately with Delta State and the Federal Government as well as the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) to wade in urgently and prevail on Heritage Energy Operational Services Limited to do the needful.
They stated that as the rainy season is fast approaching, the communities are in danger because both the entire communities and their farmlands will be covered with the crude oil while nobody will be able to do anything in the affected communities.
The communities representatives however insisted that if the HEOSL management further failed to heed to their call, the communities would be left with no other option than to ask them (oil firm) to leave their oil fields.
Also, the woman leader of the federated communities, Mrs. Rachael Ukuveghre has hinted that plans are on by the womenfolk in the communities to relocate to and occupy the premises of the company, to show their grievances.
She said, “We will occupy the premises, we will dance naked in their premises until they listen to us”.
The woman leader lamented that since 2019 till date, virtually all their means of livehood notably their economic trees, crops, ponds and streams, have been destroyed by HEOSL following spillage from their faulty oil facilities.