EGBORODE FIRE DISASTER
Subject: ERA FIELD REPORT # 74...EGBORODE
AFTER THE FIRE
Date: Wed, 29 Nov 2000 21:35:44 -0800
From: "ERA/FoEN" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "ERA/FoEN" <email@example.com>
SUBJECT: AFTERMATH OF THE EGBORODE PIPELINE
DESPATCHLINE: OKPE LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA, DELTA STATE
DATE: NOVEMBER 27, 2000
1. The Egborode fire disaster
2. Villagers rendered homeless
3. Only source of drinking water polluted
4. Navigation no longer possible on Omugba river
5. Economic activities paralysed
6. Villagers sink deeper into poverty
7. No relief in sight
"The government put the pipeline on our land to serve
its own purpose, now that it has caused so much havoc, the government has
an obligation to compensate us. Why should we suffer for no fault
of ours just because we live near petroleum products pipelines owned by
the government? We are dying because of the pipeline that the government
put on our land. In the past we ate fish, we got meat from the bush,
but now because of the pipeline these things are no longer possible",
- Egbebotor (fisherman whose wife died in the fire)
"If you see the food that I eat now, you will be surprised. There are no crops left on our farms and we have no money to buy food because we no longer have a source of income. Some children have been dropped out of school because their parents no longer have the money to retain them in school"
"As you have come here, we can not give you our water
to drink, if we give you we are poisoning you,"
- Daniel Akpere (lost all his property)
The Niger Delta has of late been hit by a spate of oil pipeline fires, which have claimed hundreds of lives, and left many people seriously injured. But the agony inflicted by the fires goes beyond deaths and injuries as ERA found out at Okpe Local Government Area of Delta State. The local government may well be the worst affected by the fires.
OKPE LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA
Okpe Local Government Area is town in Delta State. The people of the local government are predominantly farmers, fishermen and hunters. Pipelines carrying petroleum products from the Warri refinery to other parts of Nigeria pass through the local government.
THE EGBORODE FIRE DISASTER
In late June, a pipeline near Egborode village in Okpe Local Government Area ruptured. Petroleum products from the pipeline kept spewing into the nearby Omugba River. The river transported the petroleum products through villages, farmlands and forests. The affected area stretched over 30 kilometres from Okpe Local Government Area to Sapele Local Government Area from where the river heads out for the sea. Authorities of the Okpe Local Government made a report about the leakage to the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, the government agency that owns the pipeline. The corporation took no action until the leaking petroleum products exploded causing a huge fire on July 10, 2000. The fire spread through the River Omugba causing havoc to the villages, farmlands and forests through which it passes. More than 3000 people were burnt to death; the incident is the worst pipeline fire disaster since 1,500 people were burnt to death in 1998 in nearby Jesse village.
ONLY SOURCE OF DRINKING WATER POLLUTED
The Omugba River is the only source of water for many villages in the area. The villages include Ogbokolo, Ukugbogbo, Ugwagba, Alologe, Oviri Court, Egborode, Eriama and Okuokolo. The river is now polluted as a result of the fire. The burnt petroleum products has changed the colourless outlook of the river to a dirty black. Months after the fire, the river is still polluted. Many people have fallen ill after consuming contaminated water. The acute water scarcity has created untold hardship for the people.
NAVIGATION NO LONGER POSSIBLE ON OMUGBA RIVER
Before the fire disaster, the Omugba River use to be a means of transportation in the area. It was also a major water route between Okpe Local Government and Sapele Local Government areas. Navigation is no longer possible due to remains of hundreds of burnt trees, which fell into the river. Besides, the canoes used in the river were burnt when the fire spread through it.
ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES PARALYSED
Omugba River where the villagers used to fish is now devoid
of any aquatic life. There is no possibility of life existence
in the river in the near future due to the pollution. Farmers are
also counting their losses following the destruction of large expanse of
farmlands. The local economy has also been affected with the burning down
of economic trees like palm trees, Mahogany, Iroko and Afara. Another
effect of the fire was the death of wildlife, which the people hunt for
food. Villagers said they have been seeing carcasses of charred animals
in the forests. The death of wildlife has thrown hunters out of job.
VILLAGERS SINK DEEPER INTO POVERTY
Petroleum products related activities are known to have
made villagers in the Niger Delta poor. Those affected by the recent
pipeline fire have been pushed further into po verty. The destruction
of farmlands, forest and the loss of fishes, wildlife and economic trees
have led to loss of income which has made most people desperately poor.
Many people cannot even afford to feed themselves.
NO RELIEF FROM GOVERNMENT
Although the fire occurred as far back as July 10, 2000
the Nigerian government, which owns the pipeline, is yet to compensate
the villagers. The government has refused to do this, claiming that the
villagers vandalised the pipeline
to steal fuel. This is far from the truth. The pipelines usually rupture due to corrosion or as a result of the activities of fuel thieves who vandalise them to steal fuel.
Villagers argue that the government has a responsibility to compensate them. The regret for many villagers is that if the government had not put the pipelines in the area this calamity would not have befallen them.
1. The Nigerian government should compensate the villagers for the loss of their farmlands, wildlife, economic trees and other losses suffered as a result of pipeline fire disasters in the Niger Delta.
2. The government should rebuild all houses burnt by the fires.
3. All rivers polluted as a result of the fires should be cleaned up and the burnt trees hindering navigation should be cleared.
4. Immediate medical attention should be offered to those who fell ill after drinking contaminated water. The people should be provided with potable water.
5. Reclamation should be carried out in the forest and
farmlands affected by the fire disasters.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
7 Write to the Federal Government to ensure that NNPC cleans up the polluted rivers and pay compensation to the victims.
7 Write to the Federal Government calling on them to rebuild the devastated villages, send relief materials to the victims and provide potable water to the villagers.
7 Write to local and international organisations concerned with the environment.
7 Write to your local mass media.
7 Join in the campaign against the destruction of environment
of the Niger Delta.
For more information:
E-mail us at any of these addresses