The Wole Soyinka Center for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) has initiated a series of projects in pursuit of greater accountability in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector. The various projects are designed to advance good governance in Nigeria and to push the media and civil society to demand greater transparency in the operations of oil companies.
Such demands have grown since Nigeria transitioned to a democratic system in 1999. Recent probe reports, including the Nuhu Ribadu Report, have revealed pervasive corruption that has denied oil-rich communities and Nigeria the benefits of the resource.
The new investigative story projects are executed with a small grant from the WSCIJ. The grant is meant to empower reporters to capture in pictorial form the challenges facing the inhabitants of oil-producing communities.
The reports are focused on two major communities in Rivers State—Bodo City in Gokana local government area, and Ogale in Eleme community.
A 2011 report of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) revealed that the oldest person in Eleme was 60 years old. The community’s severely short life expectancy owes mostly to the contamination of the sources of water as a result of crude oil production. The UNEP report stated that the people of Eleme drink water that contains the toxic benzene that is more than 900 times the guideline recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The pictures here depict the living experiences of members of these two communities.
In Bodo City, located in Gokana local government area in Rivers State, 38-year-old Livinus Baadom, a fisherman, lives in Kozo Village, a fishing settlement. With fishing as his sole means of livelihood, he is married with six children. Mr. Baadom reported that numerous oil spills had polluted rivers and land and made life more grim for his family and him. His first child, who just completed his secondary education, has joined the fishing business since his father cannot afford to send him to a higher institution.
“In two weeks I cannot boast of catching half a basket of fish or crabs. It’s difficult for me now to feed my family. There’s no water to fish anymore. Our lands have been destroyed due to the oil spills,” said Mr. Baadom.
Mrs. Bale, the wife of a fisherman, has turned to farming in order to help feed the family since her husband is not hauling in enough fish to cater for the need of the family anymore. But she also complains about the poor yield of her farm produce, blaming the problem on the soil damage from crude oil spills.
Another resident, who identified herself as Madam Ngorni, drinks water lifted from the only well that serves the entire village even though it is horribly polluted, has a smell, and has a bad taste. She and other villagers report that the well is the only one that produces “manageable water” for residents. Much of Ogoniland is devastated by incessant oil spills.
15-year-old Bari-Befe, a Junior Secondary School student, lives with his parents in Kolgba Village in Bodo-City. Bari-Befe takes care of himself by fishing, but the crisis of oil pollution has translated to a great depletion in his catch. According to him, he now mostly nets crabs and tinning crayfish, eating some and selling the rest to pay his school fees.
Residents of the Ogale community in Eleme, Ogoniland, also drink water whose benzene level is over 900 times the WHO guideline. No member of the community has lived past the 60th birthday for some years.
The Nwafor family seems to be the most affected in Ogale. Mrs. Comfort Nwafor suffered a stroke, said to be the side effect of years of drinking polluted water, according to a medical report. Her right side and limbs are paralyzed.
Her husband, Mr. Sunday Nwafor, has become permanently blind, a condition medical experts say may be connected to his consumption of the same contaminated water.
The aged couple lives with their seven children in one part of their old building and has rented the other part to get income with which to eke out a living.
At present, the people of Eleme say it is impossible to get clean water for their daily needs.
Despite the stoppage of oil production by Shell, many Ogoni youths still believe that the oil company may still be pumping oil through underground channels. That belief underscores the depth to which oil has become an ever-present nightmare for the people.
Read the original article on Sahara Reporters