The people of Eleme Community in Rivers State have faulted claims by the Joint (Military) Task Force (JTF), Operation Pulo Shield that military men found at a ruptured pipeline in Nsisioken, Eleme were there to protect the facility from the community.
The JTF had in reaction to reports that soldiers were caught stealing products when a team of officials of the Hydro-carbon Pollution Restoration Programme (HYPREP) and other stakeholders visited Nsisioken last Wednesday claimed that the soldiers were there to protect the facility.
In the statement by the Media Coordinator of JTF, Lt. Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, he said the soldiers were mobilized to secure the products and protect the point of vandalism against persons who may want to scoop from the site.
Reacting to the statement, the member representing Eleme constituency in the state House of Assembly, Mr. Josiah Olu, said he was in the team that visited the site last Wednesday and the JTF statement did not reflect what they met at the site.
He said it was unfair that JTF was insinuating that it was communities around the pipeline right of way that vandalised the facility to scoop products.
In an interview with THISDAY, Olu said, "I need to clear the air about this insinuation that communities around where NNPC or PPMC have their pipelines right of way are the ones that are involved is the vandalism of the pipeline. This is totally incorrect.
"I was at Nsisioken. Nsisioken you will recall in the UNEP report is the most polluted area in the entire Ogoniland: the benzene level in the underground water is 900 times above WHO accepted standards. The pollution in the air is more than 1,000 times above acceptable levels. It is pathetic because my people are dying. As a representative of the people, I was touched by what I saw on Wednesday.
"After we had a stakeholders meeting with members of HYPREP, led by their national co-ordinator, Mrs. Joy Nunieh-Okunu, and a team from John Hopkins University, USA, who are to carry out the cleaning of Ogoniland, decided, after meeting with the stakeholders from Eleme, to pay a visit to Nsisioken community that was worst hit in pollution.
"When we got there, to our surprise and amazement, we saw a team of military men, about 10 or 12 in number, with jerry cans, big plastic drums, almost 30."
He said contrary to what the JTF said, there was no spill in the area.
Olu said, "There was no single spillage on the ground. I was personally in front of where the manifold was opened. It was professionally done.
There was no spill whatsoever. I saw over 30 drums. And in a compound there, there was a long hose, about 200 or 300 metres long, connected to the compound filled with big plastic drums. And in front of where the pipeline was broken, almost another 30 drums being siphoned with a second hose.
"I asked them; if this pipeline was broken by vandals, how come no staff of the NNPC or PPMC was there? How come they were not aware? They replied that they were sent by the Brigade Commander. In my presence, the national Coordinator of HYPREP, called His Excellency (Amaechi) and also got in touch with the Brigade Commander, who said he was just resuming and was not aware of any posting and that he was going to investigate.