By Daniel Adugbo
Community alleges refinery fails to fulfill its corporate social responsibility to it; refinery claims it fulfills its corporate social responsibility to community.
Danjuma Isah, 47, looked inconsolably angry as he squeezed out words to respond to what evidently sounded to him as the most disdainful question.
Like most other residents, questions bordering on the current state of development at Rido always deepen the grief and pains inflicted in him by, according to him, the decades-old deplorable state of the community he proudly calls his ancestral home.
For most of the residents of the over 200 years old Rido, their community seems condemned to neglect and deprivation in vital aspects of development, in sharp contrast to what it ought to be as the closest settlement to the Kaduna Refining and Petrochemical Company (KRPC), a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the country’s main money maker.
“Locating a refinery here has developed nothing in Rido community other than grief and pains. No road, no water, no electricity. We should have all these for being the closest to the refinery. But they have only built a toilet for us. Is a toilet all we need? Is this not a mockery?” Danjuma queried angrily.
Rido village, a rustic settlement in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State, is indeed the closest community to the KRPC.
For operating below 10 percent capacity utilization within the last one year, KRPC earned N16 billion revenue, according to NNPC’s April 2016 financial report. When the company operated at optimum capacity, it churned out many more billions of petro-naira for the Nigeria.
However, the residents of the community claim that little of those billions have trickled down to Rido in the form of social amenities by the refinery in fulfillment of its corporate social responsibility to the community.
They claim that the state of road networks in the community is terrible and electricity supply, erratic. Clean water is a rare commodity. Whenever the refinery is operating, nobody breathes fresh air in Rido.
Globally, communities that host similar gigantic plants tend to be envied. A nearby example is Bonny community, Rivers State where the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) plant, one of Nigeria’s biggest investments in the oil industry, is sited. Presently in Bonny, electricity supply is constant. The NLNG plant is said to have provided the entire Bonny community with uninterrupted power supply, in addition to good roads, hospitals and schools.
In sharp contrast, however, Rido residents complain of wallowing in untold hardship characterized by crumbling healthcare, miserable education services, bad roads and unsafe drinking water for decades.
The community portrays a vivid image of poverty and misery. Many of the households live in the constant shadow of poisonous smoke billowing out of the refinery.
In 1975 when KRPC was established President Muhammadu Buhari was the then minister of petroleum as a military colonel and prime mover of the project. This, according to the residents of Rido, beamed rays of hope on a community in dire need of development to join the ranks of sister communities hosting such companies.
KRPC management recalled that proper steps were followed and pertinent criteria were met in terms of land acquisition before the plant was built.
The Ministry of Lands and Survey then embarked on the enumeration of the occupants of the land which was sparsely populated. The larger portion of the land where refinery was to be sited was, at that time, farmland.
The management said the owners of the land were identified and compensated accordingly before the government went ahead with the project. The compensation for the land was done based on farmlands with crops and economic trees.
Luka Makama, an elder in the village, however complained that he was paid a paltry N300 as compensation for his large farmland.
As population swelled overtime, overstretching scarce amenities, KRPC seemed to have believed that it had no other responsibilities, believing that it had justifiably compensated all the locals.
Tayo Olawuyi, who said he had been living in the community for 24 years, complained that due to the lack of clean water sources, dwellers are compelled to drink from wells.
Naomi M. Kantoma, a mother of four, also complained: “We find it difficult to access clean water. The only available means of water is the well, and water from the well is usually not safe for consumption. Whenever we scoop twice from it, the water turns red with mud and other particles. After the third scoop, we must keep the water for some time for the dirty particles to sediment before we can cook with it or drink it,” she said.
Rido indigenes disagree with the refinery management over the state of development in the community. There are also disagreements among the villagers over who constructed the community’s only health centre and primary school now overtaken by heaps of refuse.
“The school that you see was not constructed by the refinery but by the Local Government. We have a hospital but it was built by the local government.” Danjuma Isah said.
Another resident, Pastor Kantoma Musa, said he had lived in Rido for ten years but he was aware that only a toilet was built by the refinery; nothing more.
Monday S. Adamu, a youth in the village, differed completely with many of hi fellow villagers.
Adamu said, “They (the refinery) have provided water and built schools and skill acquisition centre”
He said he has been a casual staff of the refinery for the past six years, adding that youths from other communities close to the refinery such as Sabon Tasha, Narayi and Ungwan Romi have benefitted from similar opportunities.
However, independent findings revealed facts contrary to Adamu’s claims.
Rido’s only primary health center was built jointly by the state government and foreign private donors. Even the signpost to the centre was donated by youth corps members.
The villagers said they travel to Kaduna city to get medical attention in specialist hospitals because the centre is ill-equipped.
The traditional head of the community, Sarkin Rido, Alhaji Hamisu Haruna, differed completely from the teeming population of his aggrieved subjects, saying that Rido is now better off with the refinery discharging its corporate social responsibility to it.
“I have been on the throne for 20 years now. When I mounted this throne the village was without electricity, we had no secondary school, no health facility, and no people that work in government. But thank God for the intervention of the KRPC we have all these now.”
However, findings showed little evidence to support the local chief’s assertion. The road leading to his palace is itself in a bad state.
Our correspondents, who visited the community weeks after the refinery restarted operations, saw flames flaring up from the refinery and the thick black smoke emitted from there diffusing into the village.
Refineries everywhere emit gases like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, methane and benzene which, according to research findings, are harmful to humans.
Rido residents prevailingly complain that gases emitted from the refinery have had grave health and environmental effect on them over time.
Pastor Kantoma Musa said, “This smoke is affecting our health because most times when our people go to the hospital they will be told they have liver problem, they will say it is this smoke.”
The villagers alleged that the company in 2012 dumped toxic waste close to a river in the village which led to the death of some children and an adult in the village as well as birds and animals in a nearby poultry farm before.
While residents complained of giving birth to children who talk abnormally allegedly due to the toxic waste dumped by KRPC, the company’s management dismissed such complaints as baseless because they are not backed by clinical evidences.
Some medical experts affirmed that exposure over time to pollutants from especially refineries are deadly.
A Consultant Cardiologist, University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Dr. Dike Ojji said air pollution from refineries has been linked to cardiovascular diseases because it causes inflammation or a reaction on the wall of the vessel that supplies blood to the heart.
“When it does that, it can cause some form of blockage of those arteries so that it can contribute to what we call heart attack whereby there is reduced blood supply to the heart.”
Dr. Best Ordinioha, a Consultant Public Health Physician, University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, Port Harcourt said exposure to flares from refineries also causes deadly problems to the respiratory system.
“When it affects the heart and the lungs people can die, especially those that are old and those that are sick,” he said.
Dr. Ordinioha also noted the possibility of contacting cancer from refinery’s waste discharges.
“Wastewater discharges are at times supposed to be treated, but in a lot of cases they are not well treated, which means they can contaminate the environment; a lot of these hydrocarbons are known to be carcinogenic. People can get into contact with those cancer-causing chemicals through water and they can get those carcinogens through their food supply; but in most cases it is not usually through the gas flare but through probably the refinery’s effluent discharges,” he said.
The plight of Rido community is stirring concern among environmental experts who are calling for improved legislation on air pollution standards from refineries.
Checks show that many countries have taken bold steps in implementing standards for refinery emissions.
In the US, for instance, new air standards for oil refinery emissions, was released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year. The new standards for the first time ever require all refineries in the US to monitor and report releases of cancer-causing air emissions into local neighborhoods.
The new rule directs refineries to install air monitors “on the fence” where pollution leaves the refinery and pours into neighboring communities.
The Chief Executive of Connected Development (CODE), Hamzat Lawal, said Nigeria has similar laws but lacks institutions empowered to enforce them.
“Enforcement has always been the issue; take for instance, do we even have statistics on the gas that has been flared? We don’t have that, and even if we have it, where is it? These are the data that these communities or institutions will use to prosecute or hold companies that are emitting gases to account.”
Lawal said the impact of refineries emissions is a major concern because there have been reported cases over time of high level of cancer and liver failure.
The DPR whose responsibilities it is to enforce environmental and Safety considerations in refineries design and construction as contained in the Petroleum Refining Regulation 1974, require the flare stack of a refinery be located, “at a distance of 60m (200ft) from the unit or storage tanks” and for the flare to conform to the approved limit of atmospheric emission.”
The Managing Director of KRPC, Idi Muktar, said although it is the duty of the government at all levels to provide social amenities to communities, KRPC has been doing a lot to the neighbouring communities, including in Rido, in order to complement governments’ efforts.
He said the company has been investing in the social advancement of the communities, which include Rido, by providing them safe drinking water from boreholes, renovating and establishing primary schools as well as providing books and furniture, medical facilities and youth empowerment and employment.