Activists in Delta State, weekend, raised a fresh alarm that waterborne diseases have erupted, leading to water scarcity in many riverine communities in the state, while inhabitants are at the mercy of windstorm, following alleged burning of impounded crude oil, barges and forests by security agents.
The campaigners, speaking on the platform of Ijaw People Development Initiative, IPDI, said the matter had enraged residents of Ezansagbene, Okerenkoko and other communities in Gbaramatu and Egbema kingdoms.
Meanwhile, riverine dwellers are eagerly expecting the outcome of the recent forensic analysis carried out by Delta state government in collaboration with the University College, London, to evaluate their health and obtain statistics.
National President of IPDI, Mr. Austin Ozobo, who confirmed the mounting anxiety in the creeks against crude oil burning by security agents, asserted: "We have got several complaints from riverside communities, boat operators, individuals, transporters and jobless youths. The burning of seized crude, barges and local refineries are condemnable and very inimical as regards the safety of our environment."
His added: "The lives of riverine dwellers are under threat, the air they breathe is no longer safe. They breathe in adulterated oxygen, instead fresh oxygen from green plants in their environment.
"It poses more risk to the safety of the locals of the affected areas. It is another criminal act the security agents are embarking on, as it is totally against every known environmental law.
"This act of the military should be discouraged as it has greatly contributed negatively to the pollution and degradation of our environment and health situation. The practice helps to destroy our environment faster than other known forms of pollution.
"The military spread oil contents on the waterways and land. Fishing and farming businesses are no longer viable. The military is becoming heartless and callous. You know our communities drink water from the open river. There is now water scarcity among residents of the riverside communities as the practice causes waterborne diseases in Niger Delta region.
"They have finished burning all economy trees in our forest and our farmlands, now causing deforestation and exposing our communities to dangerous wind storms."
Community allegedly razed
Ozobo added: "Ezansagbene community complained bitterly about how military burnt down their communities in the guise of burning an abandoned local boat containing some diesel products on the shore of the area. The military went and apologised to the community when they found out the truth and and promised to pay compensation, which they are yet to pay.
"Some women and men called us over military excesses in Beneth Island in Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State.
"We received complaints from some members of Etegele community over military lawlessness. They complained that despite that, they are settling the military; they will not leave them to rest.
"Some persons from Gbaramatu kingdom called and lamented how security agents are destroying the waterways and our environment by disposing the crude content on the surface of the water, and that it has become difficult to fish and even move canoe on the waterways.
"Warri transporters have also complained about how military burn their transport boats over discovery of a mere jar of diesel product in their boats. In addition, many have left transportation business because of the military heartless activities on the waterways," he said.
According to Ozobo, "our concern is the daily destruction of our environment caused by the security agents. They should help to protect our environment and not destroy it as the practice is completely against necessary environmental laws."
'I haven't seen a man recover his item, then destroy it'
He continued: "I have said it time without number that the crude the military is destroying has high economic value. The seized crude can still be use or converted to finish products in our refineries and the money could be use to boost our epileptic economic and create job for the jobless youths.
"I have not seen where a man destroys his recovered stolen item. So what is essence of recovering it? This act of government is an act of foolishness. There is no point stopping the local refinery operations. The operation of local refinery has drastically reduced crime in both the land and waterways of Niger Delta.
"It has helped in provision of job for our youths, and it has reduced hunger and over dependence in the region. It makes petroleum products available in the region. You could imagine for the past four years, some locals told us that they have not set their eyes on kerosene from petrol station.
"They buy and survive with the local product. We can move to self-sufficiency in kerosene and diesel products in the country if the operation is not obstructed and improved upon.
"We want Federal Government to order it security to stop destroying our environment and contribute to the building of safe environment.
"The law never asked military men to spread oil content on the surface of the water. Security agents doing that are outlaws. There are strict environmental laws that guard against such military actions. It is an offence to dump anything that will pollute the water on it; you may be jailed for it.
"However, the law is silent in this situation because those who are supposed to keep the law and maintain order are those breaching it.
"The necessary environmental laws should be invoked against military lawlessness on the waterways and various agencies such as NOSDRA and others should act fast before soldiers, who do not mean well, completely wreck the environment."