BY: FRIDAY OMOSOLA
After the July 1998 oil spillage in Ilaje Local Government Area in Ondo State, Nigeria, which caused great agony and led to the destruction of over 3,260 animals dead from drinking polluted water, and the destruction of large fish farms and food crops across the community, the federal government, state and the oil multinational company, Chevron, have left the communities under-developed and residents in abject poverty.
Fast forward to 2023, the residents of Ilaje continue to battle with the aftermath of the spillage which has done a lot more damage since the first oil spill. And the rise of sea water levels, the community now faces a triple threat.
Navigating our way to Ayetoro Community, popularly know as Happy city, the sea incursion has also destroyed houses and other valuables. Water pollution due to irresponsible disposal of waste is common place.
Mr Olusegun Olaoye one of the residents said since the sea incursion started in early 1980’s, and since then many life’s and properties worth several millions of naira have been destroyed.
He also added that the damaged caused by the oil spill to nature in riverine communities has led to more damages of farmlands, vegetation, and death to aquatic lives.
Emanuel Aralu and Atimise Benson who also live in the communities highlighted lack of proper education, health care as some of the major issues facing the community since the sea incursion began.
“The primary and secondary schools have been relocated four times to ensure safety of the pupils and students, which has affected their education a lot.” Aralu spoke dejectedly.
In Beku, a community in Ugbo kingdom, Ilaje local government, when our reporter visited Mr Owopebijo Omonuwa, a victim of the sea incursion says “I am worried where to put all my belongings. As you can see, the water has almost collapsed my building.”
Lamenting his ordeal, Owopebijo a man at his late 60s , said catching of fishes which is the major occupation in the area was badly affected by the spillage and the economic survival ha sbecome hard for him and his family.
Unfortunately, Ayetoro and Beku Communities was not the only affected areas to the sea incursion. Several places like Mese, Awoye, Molutehin, Oretan, Jirinwo, Odofado, Ilepete, Ilowo were also visited.
In Mese Community, the residents have vacated the community as a result of the sea overtaking their land. similarly too, members of Odofado, Gbagira, Jirinwo communities are preparing to vacation the settlement they once called home.
Lack of Water
In Molutehin Community, there is no pipe borne water. According to the villagers, although there was a water project that was began, it was left uncompleted by the contractors who vacated the scene without notice leaving behind their equipment. Despite several letters written to the government and Chevron to comes to their rescue, they have been completely ignored.
A youth vice chairman, who did not want to be named, decried how the residents live on sachet water.
Mese, Obenla, Jirinwo, Ayetoro and the rest communities are not left out in the battle for drinkable water.
When asked how they get drinkable water, the villagers said the people travelling several kilometers by boat travel far to opuekaba platform to get the same water used to cool their overheated engine.
Poor Educational System
“We hired teachers with Community money’s to ensure our children are goes to school”, said one of the parent who granted our reporter an interview.
In Molutehin Comprehensive College, many uncompleted and abandoned class rooms and staff quarters were sighted.
According to the residents, the abandoned class rooms and staff quarters have been abandoned for over 10 years and most of the class rooms houses snakes, crocodiles and other dangerous animals.
In Community primary school, Odun-Oyinbo, two classes were combined together with one teacher handling all teaching activities.
When asked why teachers are scanty, Ayenuro Kehinde Nelson said, “Whenever teachers hear about the critical conditions of this place, they worked their transfer back to City.”
The science students laboratory in Molutehin comprehensive college was scanty of adequate equipments.
One of the teachers who did not want to record burst in anger in response to our question: “To be frank and sincere with you, some of these equipment are not functioning again.”
Lack of Access and Care Within Health Centre
When our reporter arrived at the basic health centre , Odun Oretan, doctors and nurses were not on seat but the hospital was left unattended to by professional health workers. The health centre lack adequate equipment.
However, in Molutehin, the only health centre in the community was uncompleted and abandoned.
One of the village heads we spoke to explained that since the spillage polluted the community’s source of drinking water, general health of the people has declined drastically, with many suffering from various forms of skin and gastric infections .
Corroborating his point on how the sick people get adequate treatment, he affirmed that either can only access medical treatment by travelling the long distance to the health centre in Igbokoda Community on bad roads or to privately owned hospitals in the nearby communities.
Members of the communities are calling on the federal and the state government, their representatives at both the states and national assemblies, and most especially the oil multinational company, Chevron, to take mitigating steps to address the situation.