The black gold, alias crude oil, the savior of the Nigerian economy has over the years, enriched the multinational oil companies and the government while further impoverishing the land owners. Oil is being drilled in large quantities from the region, money is made in quantum from the petroleum products, companies and government smile to the banks, the host communities get poorer even as their environment is polluted and degraded.
A trip round the Niger Delta region which is the oil producing area in Nigeria shows a part of the country richest in natural resources yet poorest in every other way. The marginalization is so acute that one is shocked into anger and disappointment. The confounding thing is that these multinational companies are rich enough to improve the lives of their hosts effortlessly, considering the amount of profit they make from the oil in the land. So why is it such an uphill task to give these people jobs, healthier environment, potable water, electricity, good roads, hospitals and other forms of amenities and compensation for their land being degraded?
Writing from my first experience in the region as a Youth corps member in 2009 in Bayelsa state, to my recent 2016 experience in Ogboinbiri community of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of same Bayelsa state, it was shocking to note that the situation, rather than improve seems to have worsened in this seven year interval.
Oil exploration has been going on in Ogboinbiri since 1986 with Agip being the dominant oil company operating in the community.
Taking a trip through this community, there are many striking factors that left me wondering what is wrong with the whole system. The poverty level is appalling to say the least. Farming and fishing used to be the major source of livelihood for these indigenes. But with the advent of oil exploration came the problem of pollution and degradation of the rivers and farmlands. They are forced to seek alternative means of survival. The aquatic life is non-existent, the soil infertility is at stake as a result of the oil spillages, gas flaring and other forms of pollution.
In the face of this prevailing situation, the oil companies hardly employ members of the host community. My chat with the Chairman of the Ogboinbiri Community Development Committee (CDC), Mr. Eseimokumo Ben-Okosughe, revealed that Nigerian Agip Oil Company has only three permanent staff of Ogboinbiri origin in their employ. While they have less than ten working as contract staff in Agip. They (Agip) recently agreed to employ four more contract staff from the community. These four have undergone the necessary tests and have been offered the employment. Yet, even as I write this, they are yet to resume duties at the Company, with the Company giving one excuse after another. The companies initially based their not employing natives on illiteracy, so the youths started going to school and began acquiring certificates. But are they getting the promised jobs? NO! Again, this baffles me. Could it be that none of these graduates are eligible? None is intelligent enough?
This takes us to the issue of education. Ogboinbiri community has one secondary school built years ago by Agip which is now dilapidated and no longer fit to function as a 21st Century secondary school. It has no library or laboratory whatsoever. How can it boast of those when it has no doors and windows? On the other hand, the scholarship scheme from Agip this year took care of twenty one secondary school students for the year, the highest figure so far as against the usual four or five students per anum.
In the whole of Ogboinbiri community, there is only one dilapidated and abandoned health center.
Since the inception of this present regime of the Community Development Committee, according to the Chairman, the Committee has been soliciting with the Nigerian Agip Oil Company to rehabilitate this health center. This effort is yet to bear any tangible fruit, it has been promises and promises and promises. After several futile attempts at getting the Company to renovate the health center, the Community resorted to locking up the Agip wellhead, but so far, the renovation of the health facility remains a mirage. I was informed that it is the traditional birth attendants that deliver babies and carry out other health related duties in the community when there is an a;ready existing health center waiting just to be renovated and refurbished.
In the case of a health emergency, the only option is to get to the state capital which takes about two hours using a speed boat. And I began to wonder if these people are living in the Stone Age or the jet age. I shudder to imagine what the pregnant women pass through during delivery.
The impacts of oil exploration on the environment seem to be the most disturbing problem facing the Niger Delta region. I remember the first time I came in contact with water body polluted by oil spill in 2009. It was at our NYSC orientation camp in Kaiama. We were shocked to discover films of oil atop the water we fetched in the buckets and upon enquiry; we were informed that the water was polluted by oil spill. The rivers in the Niger Delta are polluted by oil spills, and these rivers serve as the main source of water for the communities. They drink, cook, wash and bathe from same river which often times double as incinerators and toilets. These oil spills occur as often as four to five times yearly. The last one that occurred in Ogboinbiri in June 2016 is yet to be cleaned up by the oil company. The result is that flood washes the spills via the creeks and canals into the same river that the people consume.
The picture below depicts the typical Ogboinbiri community during rainy season. The inhabitants and visitors alike must paddle canoes to get from the road to their destinations, sometimes using makeshift wooden bridges to get inside their homes.
The floods are this bad due to the activities of the oil companies.
The gas flare, despite all the hullabaloo against it still goes on, in fact in Ogboinbiri, it occurs just across the community, about 120 meters away from the people.
As a result of the gas flaring, there is the problem of acidic rains, death, diseases and many other hazards. Recently, there have been increased cases of cancer, constant respiratory problems, high fever, convulsion, anemia (especially among children of 1-10 years), and etcetera. Yet the government and the multinational companies do not yet see the need to act. What will be the fate of these communities in the next ten to twenty years if nothing is done to salvage the environment?
There was an MOU signed by both the Community and the oil Company but it expired in 2012 and since then, according to Mr.Ben-Okosughe, there has been no new one. All efforts to get the Company to sign new one has been abortive. Thus, there has been no new project undertaken by Agip in Ogboinbiri since 2012. Yet oil exploration has been going. Too many promises and pledges all still in the pipeline, I just hope they will not all be pipe dreams.
I further questioned the C.D.C Chairman on the efforts of the Government to alleviate the Community’s suffering or to get the oil companies to do their own bit of Corporate Social Responsibility to the community. I was informed that the Government is well aware of their plight but chose to ignore it. The recent peace talk between the Federal Government and the Niger Delta Leaders would be a welcome development if only it would be backed by positive actions.
There has been too many avoidable agitations and crisis in the Niger Delta region for as long as we can remember. I have no doubt in my mind that this scenario will continue to play out unless the multinational oil companies and the Government do what is right by these people. It feels like robbing Peter to pay Paul if you ask me and no Peter will be happy to be marginalized so. The oil revenue accruing from the abundant natural resources in this region is being used to enrich and develop other regions and peoples. It feels just very unfair and inhuman. I mean, how difficult can it be to just give these oil producing communities basic amenities, employment, safer environment and better opportunities in compensation for lifting their oil and destroying their ecosystem? I AM BAFFLED!
Niki of The Richness of a Simple Life is organising this wonderful Kindness Challenge for all and sundry, does not matter who you are, where you are or what you do. On my part, I’m extending same invitation to all of us, bloggers and all because I believe we can still try a little more kindness. We all need more kindness shown to us just as we need to show more kindness to others. The way I look at it, our world can never get an overdose of kindness.
It is going to be just one post per week for seven weeks all about kindness. Please join us on this journey of putting smiles on each others faces. I enjoin you to visit this page on Niki’s blog to learn more and sign up. It begins tomorrow Monday the ninth, so hurry up.
Catch you on the other side of the Challenge as we shine a light for ourselves and for others.
Today is the last day of the three day quote challenge for me. It has been interesting so far and I am grateful to my friend of Spiritual Journey17 for the nomination.
Ladies get inspired with these:
And for all of us-
That is all from me to you on this exciting challenge. Hope you got something out of it because I sure did.
You are only required to post one to three quotes and nominate three other bloggers. These you do for the three days of the challenge.
Thanks for being part of it.
Poverty, diseases, hunger, death, all forms of gender discrimination and violence have been staring the Nigerian woman in the face from time immemorial. The MDGs period have elapsed and we have evolved with the rest of the world into the SDGs. Yet the impact of these goals remain very minimal within Nigeria, I bet it is not because money is not being squandered to improve that sector.
Truth be told, there has been some improvement, at least in awareness, maternal care, empowerment and such but we still have a very long way to go. Let me share with us some of the modern day experiences of the Nigerian woman.
For the rural woman, her woes starts from childhood where she is discriminated against for being a girl, circumcised and relegated to the kitches where she is meant to be seen and not heard. As she grows up, while her younger brothers continue with their education or trade, she is married off at a tender age where her journey into motherhood commences.
Her major occupation still remains farming and petty trading. She caters to the needs of her family, sets off to the farm which sometimes takes her hours to get to. Sometimes she carries her baby on her back while carrying other farm tools and stuffs on her head, to and fro. Mind you, the land she farms on belongs to her husband because in most parts of Nigeria, a woman cannot possess a land, definitely not from her father or husband. She can borrow land from her family, or lease from other males. She contributes as much as she can to the wellbeing of the family. Some do petty businesses too.
Being a petty farmer/trader she makes very little which sometimes is not enough to cater to her health and other needs and that of her children. Thus, the troubles associated with poverty – illnesses, lack of basic amenities, including clean water, hunger and death are her friends. She treks a far distance to fetch water from the stream or borehole, or to fetch firewood and such. She might come back on some days to get the beating of her life for one flimsy reason or the other. She is still treated as a second/third class citizen in her home and community where the man reigns supreme and her words and actions amount to trash.
She can barely cater for the children she already has, and no longer strong enough to carry pregnancy but because she has no say in anything, including her own life, she takes in again and again. If she dies in the process, life goes on, if she survives, she carries on with her life. If her husband dies, she still goes through hell in the name of tradition.
Her urban counterpart is somewhat luckier. If she is lucky, she got education and job, no matter the level of income, which affords her the luxury of some respect and empowerment. In her office, she is ‘just a woman’ therefore has unequal rights with the men. If she works herself off to attain a managerial position, she probably slept with every man available on her upward journey therefore deserves no respect. Her place is supposed to be in the kitchen so why would she come squaring shoulders with the men? This can affect her income and promotion mind you.
She has greater access to quality health facilities, basic amenities, and quality life, if she can afford it. Yet, she might still be a punching bag to the man of the house, an easy prey to a demented rapist, a second class citizen in general just because she is a she and not a he. If she ends up giving birth to an all-girls squad as children, it is her fault, therefore she, like her rural counterpart, must suffer for it. If her husband still thinks like his rural brothers, then her home ceases to provide succor from the challenges of daily life on the streets.
Very little has changed since the last time I wrote the Woes of the Nigerian Woman on this blog, but things have improved a bit. Now there are certain laws that were not there before, even if nobody recognizes these laws. But we know that someday, our voices will amount to more, that our contributions to society will be appreciated more and our gender will no longer be discriminated against.
I hail thee oh great women of Nigeria, Africa and the world. As we celebrate us today, I urge us all to keep being the best we can be, to resist intimidation and to help each other on this road to victory.
To the men that love us, respect us and cherish us, kudos and keep it up.