In a bid to draw the attention of the Federal Government to the ordeal the people of Badagry suffer as a result of activities of the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) gas flaring acts, some residents have called on the governments at all levels to help address the problem of environmental degradations going on in the area.
This was the focus of a briefing organised by Environmental Rights Initiative (ERA)/Friends of the Earth in Lagos last Friday, when some representatives of the communities highlighted their problems while appealing to the government to come to their aid. WAGP is a company that is owned by four multi-national organisations, namely Shell, Chevron, NNPC and World Bank and after construction, would be handing over west Africa Pipeline Company (WAPCO) for marketing of the gas.
According to the Gender Focal Person, Environmental Rights Action, ERA, Mrs. Betty Abah, ERA chose to orientate the women residing there and this is coined toward their upcoming project, Gender and Pipelines with the theme: Speak Up for Women. The reason for such theme is that the female folks are the mostly affected when the issue of gas flaring and oil spillage is mentioned in Badagry as they are the major people involved in the trading in Badagry.
According to the leader of the group, Chief Alex Kunniji, before the project started in 1995, the West African Pipelilne Company, WAPCO promised the populace of Badagry good and motorable roads, employment opportunities, school buildings, good and well equipped health centres among others in exchange for the land, which the Badagry people were giving them.
However, all efforts to make them accomplish their promises have so far proved abortive.
Kunniji, said it is unacceptable for WAPCO to keep employing youths from Ghana to come and work in Ajido, Imeke and Araromi communities in Badagry where the pipelines were laid. Rather, he urged WAPCO to change their employment policy so as to create opportunity for the youths in the communities in Badagry, which hosts the WAPCO Projects “WAPCO should have a change of heart and their administrative system. We want them to rescue our youths – graduates and others below that level, many of whom are suffering in silence,” he said, adding that the people in the community had been discussing this issue for long without any response from WAPCO.
He also said contrary to what was discussed at the initial stage, health centres in the communities were dilapidated as well as their educational structures with specific reference to Ajido in Badagry.
“When our youths wanted to go on a calm protest against what they had done, our communities were visited with violence. The youths that wanted to speak for the rights of the people of Badagry were beaten up and detained because they have the resources to suppress any form of opposition,” said Mr. Aliu Sikiru who was representing the youths at the events.
The reason for the collaboration with ERA was that the NGO can also fight for the rights of these people instead of meeting with others that would later trick them and charge them for the services they are rendering.
Chief Temitope Adele Agemo from Araromi said the organisation had always carried out employment via the Internet from Ghana and Togo and had systematically excluded youths from Ajido, Imeke and Araromi, the local indegens that host the pipeline project.
“Some of our people did not get any compensation for the takeover of the plots. They just heard in the media that some amount of money had been paid as compensation to the land owners,” he lamented.
While highlighting the plight of women in these communities, a woman leader from Imeke, Mrs. Omobuwajo Dele nee Kafisewon said the activities of WAPCO in the communities have serious negative impact on the means of livelihood of women and children and demanded that women be rescued from these ordeals.
According to her, natives of the affected communities were mat weavers and fish sellers.
However, heat generated from the underground gas pipelines, has impacted negatively on the raffia plants used in mat weaving, resulting in their poor production of the plants.
Similarly, she said the pipelines have polluted the river, not only making fishing unlucrative, but also impacting negatively on the growth of the raffia plants. “The polluted water has made raffia less than 100 per cent than we used to get,” said Kafisewon.
As for the youths, Mr. Aliu said they want WAGP to employ their youths and train them as staff and not labour. More so, the water is bad, thus they clamour for borehole wells in Ajido, Badagry.
Therefore, she urged the government to empower women in the area with loans that come with meagre interest.
In the area of health, Kafisewon noted that the skin of the community people is dry as a result of the impact of heat being generated from the