How Oil Contamination has Poisoned the People of Ekorinim in Cross River State for 15 years.
Ekorinim is an indigenous community lying in Calabar the Cross River State Capital. Traditionally, the people earned a livelihood from farming on the vast hilly lands they possess, as well as fishing from the great Kwa River. Their way of life- and its tranquility- changed suddenly two decades ago when their traditional land caught the attention of the state government for the creation of a new modern highbrow city extension. The community quickly became overwhelmed by the influx of rapid modernization. The once quiet and serene community is now mostly the reserved area of the rich. The Ekorinim people have now been pushed to the fringes. They currently occupy only a fraction of their original space, substantially losing their farmlands to the pressure of ‘development’.
The Ekorinim Community also plays host to pipelines conveying petroleum products to several ‘tank farms’ installed for its storage. Pipes for the conveying of refined products run across the community at several points. Despite costing the community sizeable land space in ‘rights of passage’, the movement of hydrocarbon products through the pipes has also resulted in an alarming case of pollution. On account of age or human activity, the community has been faced with large scale pollution which has contaminated the underground water source which they depend on for drinking and cooking.
Preliminary evidence indicates that the community has suffered this water contamination for over 15 years. While no detailed study has yet been conducted on the effect of this pollution, there have been reports of an increase of sicknesses of the epidermis and other medical discomforts believed to be as a result of the contamination of their water. Boreholes and water wells dug in the community have been abandoned as the strong stench and coloration of petrol is evident in the water. Some businesses including hotels have closed up. Indeed, the social and medical consequences of the pollution in Ekorinim is similar to the one noticed at Ogale in Ogoniland where water samples revealed the presence of benzene 900 times above permitted levels.
Unfortunately, since this incident happened over a decade ago, the community has not received any form of relief or compensation. Their major option remains the contaminated water and all the health dangers that come with it.
On the 23rd of February 2018, We the People facilitated a Town Hall meeting with the leadership and people of the Ekorinim community where it resolved that a petition be addressed to all relevant agencies including those responsible for the poisoning of their environment. Read the petition for ecological justice below;
Environmental Justice for Ekorinim Community
Being a Petition by the Ekorinim Community to the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, operators of the Ekorinim Petroleum Products Pipeline.
We, the Elders, Men, Women and Youths of Ekorinim Community in Cross River State, Nigeria, do send this petition to register the pains and frustrations inflicted on us through the continuous and systematic destruction of our health, environment and livelihood sources by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation in the course of the movement of petroleum products through the pipelines in our community. These activities has resulted in massive environmental hazard, livelihood losses and poisoning of our people which we have had to exist with for too many years.
Traditionally, our people earned a livelihood from farming on the vast hilly lands we possess, as well as fishing from the Ekorinim River. About 2 decades ago, our community caught the attention of NNPC as a possible passage of petroleum product conveying pipeline to Tank farms for storage and sales. Despite costing the community sizeable land space in ‘rights of passage’, the movement of hydrocarbon products through the pipes has also resulted in an alarming case of pollution. On account of age and negligence, our community is now faced with enormous pollution resulting from the leakage of these pipes, spilling hydrocarbon products into the soil and water, which has in turn contaminated the underground water source which we depend on for drinking and cooking. Also, the fishing activities which was one of our community’s most significant livelihood sources has been rendered impossible on account of the continuous pollution of the river. The people of Ekorinim have suffered this contamination for over ten years.
It is particularly painful and sad that whilst other members of the Nigerian nation have government protected rights to water and a clean environment, the We the People of Ekorinim Community are forced to live in conditions that deny them livelihoods and poisons them. Wells and water boreholes dug in the community now produce rainbow colored water- the clear indication of hydrocarbon pollution, and the strong stench of petrol. Businesses in the community have folded up, properties have lost value, health challenges have increased and we have been forced to live with this for the last decades. A recent study which our community has undertaken on the effects of this pollution, also indicates that there have been an increase of sicknesses of the epidermis and other medical discomforts believed to be as a result of the contamination of our community water source. Boreholes and water wells dug in the community have been abandoned as the strong stench of petrol is evident in the water. Indeed, the social and medical consequences of the pollution in Ekorinim is similar to the one noticed at Nsisi Oken Ogale in Ogoniland where water samples revealed the presence of benzene 900 times above permitted levels.
Unfortunately, since this incident happened many years ago, our community has not received any form of relief, compensation or any effort to clean the mess and restore the environment. Our major water source remains the contaminated water and all the health dangers that come with it.
We also wish to put on record that there have been numerous visible spillages from the NNPC pipeline in our community. Whenever these occur, the routine practice has been to embark on actions to stop the loss of petroleum products, without any corresponding effort to carry out any environmental remediation activities and compensations for losses those spill regularly engender. For example, in 2003 there was a huge fire explosion from the pipeline which led to the loss of lives and properties. After days of carnage, the fire was put under control, but the losses were never restored or compensated for.
Consequent on the above, We the People of Ekorinim Community hereby express our unreserved dissatisfaction with the way the activities of NNPC and its agencies and partners have impacted on our lives. We can no longer be quite and watch as our heritage and that of our children is destroyed for the promotion of corporate interest. We can no longer be silent while our people are routinely poisoned with hydrocarbons. No we will not.
After extensive deliberations, We the People of Ekorinim Community petition all relevant authorities and agencies thus;
1. We the People of Ekorinim Community demand that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the principal operators of the Ekorinim pipeline, immediately commence an assessment of the level of ecological, environmental, social and economic damage which their operations have done on the Ekorinim community.
2. We the People of Ekorinim community demand that short term measures be immediately established to address the water and health challenges which the people are currently undergoing. These measures must be practically aimed at ensuring that our people no longer have to consume water contaminated by petroleum products.
3. We the People of Ekorinim community demand that a cleanup of all polluted sites commences immediately.
4. We the People of Ekorinim Community demand that a process aimed at compensating us for the damages and losses we have suffered on account of the pollution of our land and waters be immediately started. For the avoidance of doubt, this process must be jointly administered with the leadership of the community and representing the entire community.
We the People of Ekorinim Community make bold to declare that we do not intend our just demand for environmental justice to be construed as belligerence on our part. For a decades, we have peacefully provided ‘right of passage’ to the pipeline without making unnecessary demands or receiving any benefits. In return, we have lost the most significant and fundamental property we own- our environment. We are however firm to declare that we are determined to pursue this cause vigorously and in accordance with the law to its logical conclusion, so help us God.
This petition is signed for an on behalf of the Ekorinim Community by the following;