Residents of the communities lamented that despite huge oil deposit that Shell exploited on a daily basis from the communities, as well as playing host to many of its facilities such as the Sego manifold that transports about 500,000 barrels of crude oil to Bonny and Bayelsa, what they get in return are ecological and aquatic devastation caused by oil and gas exploitation.
According to the communities, their only source of drinking water has been polluted with benzene chemicals while fish farming is not flourishing.
The three communities are predominantly fishing settlements, where large catches of fish were harvested on a daily basis in the past but, which is now impossible according to the residents. They also said they now rely on imported fishes for business and to sustain daily.
The Paramount ruler of Ofionama community, High Chief Ibiofa Nathaniel Sukubo, told Gbramatuvoice in an interview with him, that his community is now distressed due to all these unfavourable conditions, caused by the activities if the oil giants.
He said; “It is very bad. It was not like this before. Our people are predominantly fish farmers. When we were growing up, our communities were very beautiful place to behold. There were lots of economic activities bordering on fishing. People came from all works of life to buy fish here,” .
“That time, one didn’t need to struggle to get fish. Our parents simply dropped their nets in the river and the harvests of fish was always overwhelming. But all that is now history since the advent of oil exploitation.”
Exploration of oil, according to him, “has done so much harm to us than good. It has destroyed our environment.”
The visibly distressed monarch added that even though they (communities)t have wealth, they live in abject poverty and polluted environment, even though the Offionama community is a co-host to the Belema flow station, the gas injection and booster plant.
He continued; “The community is a principal oil producing and pipeline community and a contributor to the over 200,000 barrels of oil and over 150 million cubic feet of gas. In the midst of all these, the ecological and aquatic devastation caused by oil and gas exploration and exploitation has been quite colossal and astronomical.”
Sukubo explained that the communities are prone to serious ecological hazards, and that their natural source of income which is fishing has suffered serious decline.
He expressed regret that since Shell has been operating in the area for about 40 years, the communities in Kula cannot boast of basic amenities to assist in alleviating the suffering of the people.
Kula communities had in August, 2017 occupied and shut down Shell’s operations in OML25. According to sources within the communities, their angst was because the company at the expiration of its lease had concluded plans to divest the said field to an indigenous company and the communities of Offionama, Belema and Ngeje decided to resist the move.
The communities had insisted that Shell, on expiration of its lease, should vacate their communities and hand over the operational license of OML25 to an indigenous oil company, Belema Oil.
However, a visit by a delegate of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) led by an elder statesman and a prominent Ijaw leader, Chief Anabs Sara Igbe on a fact- finding mission to the communities last week, brought joy to the people.
The delegates were overwhelmed with various complaints from the locals, all of which bordered on devastated environment and lack of social amenities.
At the palace of King Oko Royal House of Kula Kingdom and the Amanayagbo of Kula, Bodillion Ekine, residents of the community expressed anger over the activities of Shell, with most blaming the company for the devastation of their environment.
The spokesman of the community, Walter Opuleye, said the community’s fishing expeditions which were its only source of livelihood had been devastated as a result of oil exploitation.
“This community has suffered a total environmental devastation. Our rivers have been polluted. We cannot fish in these rivers. Oil pollution has destroyed our environment. Our people can no longer fish. Our source of drinking water is polluted with benzene, a chemical substance that is cancerous,’’ he said.
He said that since Shell abandoned the water scheme it started, saying that residents are left with polluted water to drink.
Hundreds of women, youths and men have been occupying the Shell flow station at Belema since August 2017, insisting that Shell must leave the facilities.
One of the women who spoke to our reporter, Mrs Ekine Harry, said the entire community was polluted with hydrocarbon.
“Our people are exposed to all kinds of illnesses as a result of exposure to hydrocarbon chemicals. Our sea food such as periwinkles and others are nowhere to be found. We have wealth but live in abject poverty. We have paid so many prices but have nothing to show for it,” she said.
Youths of the communities also staged a peaceful protest, carrying placards with inscriptions depicting the neglect and devastation of their environment.
They also called on the government to come to their aid by ensuring that they have potable water, good health facilities, as well as total remediation of their polluted environment.
Chief Igbe, said it will collate all its findings for onward transmission to the leadership of the PANDEF which, will in turn document its findings and present it to all the relevant authorities.
Shell spokesman, Mr Joseph Ollor Obari, did not respond to a text message sent to him. However, a statement he sent to our reporter indicated that the company had carried out several developmental projects for its host communities that run into millions of dollars.