Port Harcourt — This is not the best of time for hundreds of residents of Ogali-Eleme, a sleepy community in Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Residents said that they are dying in large numbers as a result of benzene contaminated water resulting from oil spillage.
Ogali Eleme is one of the communities that suffered severe hydrocarbon pollution as a result of oil exploration and exploitation activities of oil companies.
Daily Trust gathered that the devastation of the entire community with hydrocarbon pollution has been such that water drilled from the area is contaminated with benzene.
Some of the residents that spoke with our reporter said that their land was polluted as a result of several years of oil spillage. The situation according to a resident, Friday Gberebe has remained like that for several years.
He said: "Ogali is one of the communities adversely affected by severe oil pollution. Our farmland, community stream as well as the entire land is polluted with hydrocarbon and benzene."
The pollution according to him has a very deep penetration into the soil that no matter how deep a driller goes to get water what he sees is benzene contaminated water.
"Several research have been carried out and the findings are that our water is contaminated," he added.
He said: "Everyday our people die. We lose people almost on a daily basis. As we speak there are about three corpses lying in the morgue and this death is not far from benzene polluted water the deceased had been taking for several years.
While noting that several visits to the government agencies have not yielded any positive impact on the plight of the community, he said few years back, the state government supplies them water from Port Harcourt but that is not being done now.
"When Federal Government set up the UNEP cleanup of Ogoni land, we all heaved a sigh of relief that our polluted environment will be cleaned up. The HYPREP management team has visited here. The Senate Committee on Environment led by Senator Oluremi Tinubu also visited. All they told us was to be patient that government is doing something to clean up our environment.
"We want something urgent to be done because our people are dying," he stated.
However, the Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria, Better Jens Kjemprud with the Coordinator of HYPREP, Dr Marvin Dekil recently visited Ogali and other Ogoni communities such as Goi and Gokana on fact finding mission.
Kjemprud at the palace of the Paramount Ruler of Ogali community, Chief Bebe Ukpabi said that Norway was interested in ensuring that there was total remediation of all the contaminated communities of Ogoni land.
He said that his long sojourn in Niger Delta has given him an ample knowledge of the region saying that Norway would find a way of assisting HYPREP in carrying out the cleanup of the entire polluted sites.
"We are to see the effect of environmental impact on Ogoni land and see what we can do," Kjemprud said.
Chief Bebe Ukpabi said, "Ogali is one of the communities in Ogoni Land that is devastated by oil pollution. We want you to look into our community and see what you can do to assist us. We don't have a good source of drinking water. Our water is polluted with benzene. We want you to do something to assist us," the Paramount Ruler stated.
In his remark, Dr Dekil said they are in the process of remediation of the oil contaminated sites of Ogoni land, saying, HYPREP has about 12 sites that are undergoing the process of remediation and that Federal Government is fully committed to the implementation of the Ogoni UNEP report.
"We are committed to the cleanup of the entire Ogoni polluted sites. It's only a demonstration. We have to scope the site for the process of remediation. The scoping is the key aspect of what will take us to the total remediation. We are taking our time to get what we want," he said.
He said its next area of intervention would be the provision of portable water to the communities of Ogoni affected by oil pollution.
The Project's Head of Communication, Isa Wasa who spoke to Journalist at the end of the medical outreach in Gokana said that HYPREP would provide potable water to communities of Ogoni that were affected by oil pollution.