By Tony John, Port Harcourt
The people recounted how they have lived with the cruel effects of their ordeal since the oil spill occurred in April, 2020. The Community Development Chairman (CDC), Excellent Eze, said: “Everything is hooked up; there is no way to enjoy our water, even the one to drink (from borehole) we don’t drink the water again. Some of us drink water from the well and it affects them. We have tried, but we are not seeing any effort from the government.”
He appealed to a non-governmental organization: “Since Social Action (SA) has come, we are pleading to them to help us to get our water clean. We want to get our water back because it is a gift that God gave us. It is not good that we are living and surrounded with water, but we cannot enjoy our water.
“The oil spillage has affected us tremendously. Our farmlands have dried up; you can see that the plantains have totally dried up, no good manure, even as we are standing here, the heat coming out from there will disturb you. This is so worrisome to us; this thing happened since Apirl last year. We have been living with it; we have gone to the environmental, up to the Local Government and we have not seen any efforts made. That is why we are crying out.”
Senior Programme Officer, SA, Prince Edegbuo, said: “Rumuekpe people have suffered so much from oil spill that has been detected for several years now and how it has affected their social and economic well-being. We all know how important water is, people can’t survive without water. But, this community of men, women and children live daily with the struggle and challenges of how not just to get water, but how to get safe drinking water.
“We are interested in getting justice for them; we are also interested in working with the Nigerian government to find out the source of this; we are interested to ensure that there is a clean up of this mess in the river and return it back to its original source. These are agrarian communities, they are mainly farmers, fishing is just part of it, and the spillage gets to the water. You will find out that it has affected the yield of their farm produce.
“The only borehole they have in this community is no longer working. It has been contaminated. If it is pumped, you will find out that the colour changes after a while to something like soft drink, but it is water. You will understand that the water is no longer healthy for human consumption.
“Therefore, we are calling on all government agencies, all relevant offices, all stakeholders, the oil companies and well-meaning Nigerians to come and find a way; first of all, to make water available to the people of Omoviri in Rumuekpe community, as well as finding lasting solutions to the problem.”
One of the youths, Eze Chinedu, decried the deteriorating state of their environment and hardships the massive oil spill has thrown them into. Chinedu expressed: “We normally bath and drink from this river. After sometime, we noticed that the river floats out oil; oil will be coming out from the ground. Since we came back from a major crisis, we started experiencing oil spill, even in our farms, we can hear odour oozing out from the oil spill.
“The elders of our community have gone to various oil companies to find solution and ascertain where the oil is coming from. They have looked for solutions from many places, but all their efforts were fruitless.”
Representing the women group, Mrs. Paulina Eze, said: “The women are suffering; we don’t know what to do – no water for us to drink; even to bath is a problem for us; even our farms are not yielding produce again. This oil spill is affecting us because we don’t make use of the water again.
“We don’t know where the oil comes from. We have sought solutions everywhere, even the company in Rumueze is not attending to us. Let the government come and see the water. We don’t have schools, no roads, no light. We are just grounded like that.”