By Tope Templer Olaiya
While Nigerians were groaning and battling with the adverse effects of petrol scarcity across the country, some residents of Ejigbo were having it rough with security agencies. They had their problems compounded by police harassment and detention over alleged oil bunkering activities in their neighbourhood.
The alarm had been raised by several unsuspecting victims of adulterated petrol, who had bought the much sought-after product from the ‘black market’ at exorbitant price in Ejigbo and environs at the height of the fuel scarcity crisis, which came to a head last weekend. Many vehicle owners had complained of buying petrol mixed with water and this had sprung policemen from the Ejigbo division into action.
After some snooping around, some trail led police detectives to some streets in Ejigbo, in particular Abuna, Sanusi and Surprise Avenue and some parts of Victory Estate, where oil spill had polluted underground water in the area. Instead of water, residents were fetching petrol from wells and boreholes. Since the police discovery, residents have not slept with both eyes closed, as the police have subjected them to constant harassment.
Former chairman of Abuna Sanusi Community Development Association (CDA), Chief Samuel Obembe, said over half of million Ejigbo residents are sleeping on a time bomb, which could explode anytime soon if urgent action is not taken to arrest the oil spillage, which first occurred in 2013.
“About 28 streets are presently affected, where there are no water. All the wells and boreholes have been polluted. Even the pumping machine cannot withstand infection of fuel mixed with water. Contrary to what the police is insinuating, we are not oil vandals, we are instead suffering from the neglect of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
“We have made the necessary complaints to the Wasimi station of the NNPC and they directed one Alhaji Abubakar to inspect our area but since that inspection in 2013, nothing has come out of it. We pray there is no explosion in this area because over 500,000 people would be affected.”
When The Guardian visited the area yesterday, there was relative calm in the affected streets and it was devoid of residents for fear of police arrest. Traders also locked up their shops, while community leaders were locked up in a meeting with the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Ejigbo station and representatives of Ejigbo Local Council Development Area (LCDA).
Legal adviser to the community, Barrister Ekpeh Paschal, told The Guardian after the meeting that the community has resolved to take the issue up with the Commissioner of Police, informing him of the grave security risk the area is exposed to and bring to his attention the activities of his men.
Aside the risk of contaminated water, which studies confirm could cause cancer and physical or mental disability, Paschal noted that the area’s exposure to highly inflammable materials could result in a fire outbreak like the disaster that occurred 10 years ago in Ijegun.
According to an oil sector analyst, Victor Ohai, pipelines have a lifespan of 15 years. This means there should be periodical change of pipeline installations across the country.
He went on: “These things are not meant to last forever. I don’t know when but I am sure the pipelines have been there for much longer. The danger is that there is a lot of corrosion that goes on over time leading to some perforations on the pipes.
“Any time oil is being pumped, the product leaks and goes underground. When it rains, the underground water level rises and because oil will always float when mixed with water, the oil will seep through into neighbouring wells. With the present situation, residents of this area are already victims of the negligence of the NNPC, who are the owners of the pipelines. Apart from the health implication, the hazards of exposed pipelines cannot be quantified.”
It would be recalled that the NNPC in November 2013 confirmed the oil spillage at Ejigbo area, saying two samples of the leakage had been taken for laboratory test to ascertain the true nature of the spill. The spillage was first discovered in a well belonging to one Mr. Adedanji Ogunba.