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…Imo oil-bearing communities cry out over neglect, environmental pollution
Behaviour of oil companies fuels militancy
From George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
The oil bearing communities in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area otherwise known as the ‘Food basket’ of Imo State because of their agricultural resources have lamented that while their ancestral land, residential and commercial houses have been swallowed by floods, their agricultural lands and streamlets have been polluted by the oil companies.
The oil bearing communities, which include Etekwuru, Assah, Awarra, Obile, Umuokanne and Obosima have, therefore, made a passionate appeal to the state and federal governments to save their communities from the unabated environmental degradation as a result of the activities of the multi-national oil companies.
Leon Ezedinoh, a native of the Etekwuru community said most of the multi-national oil companies that operate in their community do not care about the plight of their host whose farmland they have devastated.
“They come here and take away our oil which is used to develop other places without giving us anything in return other than polluting our environment. They don’t care about the people whose farmlands and streams have been polluted.
“Ordinarily, the oil companies who are making so much profit from our community are supposed to be alive to their corporate social responsibilities by providing social amenities to their host community and when the people protest they hire soldiers and police to kill them. Yet, the companies have refused to do what they are supposed to do by way of ensuring that they at least mitigate the oil pollution which has rendered most of our farmlands useless.”
He maintained that the cause of militancy in the oil bearing communities was as a result of lack of employment opportunities and accused the companies of always hiring workers from outside the communities.
Similarly, Gift Nwokoma, a youth leader in Etekwuru, said that the community has suffered terribly because of the devastation visited on the community by oil companies, lamenting that they have nothing to show for the presence of the oil firms.
He accused the companies of stoking crisis in the community through divide and rule tactics.
Also, the traditional ruler of the Umuokanne Community, Dr Cyracus Nnokoma, lamented that the major access road from Owerri via Obinze has been in a terrible state in the last two years, making it difficult for the natives and visitors to easily access the community through Obinze, which is the shortest route to the community.
The monarch who also decried the environmental degradation of the community because the ceaseless emission of chemicals arising from the operation of the oil companies appealed to the Federal Government to at least clean the environment as they are now doing in Ogoniland.
“We have appealed to the Federal Government to clean the polluted lands in the communities as being currently done in Ogoniland so that the people can use same again for farming which is the major occupation of the people. So, we earnestly appeal to them to do something urgent because if you visit any of the farmlands or our streams you will understand what we are suffering in the name of being an oil producing community,” he said.
However, the monarch said that in spite of the ugly situation he has always been against militancy, stressing that violence solves no problem.
“What has been fueling militancy in the oil communities is as a result of the lackadaisical behaviour of the oil companies operating in those communities because you cannot destroy the farmland and pollute their streams from where they earn their livelihood without showing some concern by way of cushioning their losses.
“But in spite of that I have always appealed to the youths in my community that violence cannot solve our problems of environmental degredation and neglect by the oil companies; that the only solution is dialogue, consultation and dialogue and that is why we have relative peace in Umuokanne Community,” he stated.