By Constance Meju
Women incommunities devastated by oil spill in Ogoni an Eleme area have accused HYPREP,the implementing body for the UNEP recommended clean-up in Ogoni land, of notrespecting the stipulated guideline for the emergency measures in an attempt toplease politicians.
This waspart of deliberations at a quarterly media session between women from some oilimpacted communities and media personnel organized by Kebetkache WomenDevelopment and Resource Center March 22, 2019 in Port Harcourt.
Thewomen from K-Dere, community in Gokana Local Government, Kwakwa in Khana LocalGovernment and Alode in Eleme Local Government Area all said the basicprovision of clean water for affected communities has not been implementednoting that interest has been shifted to other areas.
Accordingto Namon Grace Windee, a woman leader in K-Dere, good water was a priority butit is not being addressed.
“HYPREPjumped protocol to please politicians. We were supposed to be given good wateras our water has been polluted. Some drugs were distributed at the healthcenter but that is not what we expected. In the area of health Ogoni women areexperiencing things we have not experienced before oil pollution. Now you hearof breast cancer, premature death, infertility, miscarriage, heart attack, skindiseases, ulcer, etc. We were eating well before but now some foodstuff we takeare not there anymore. Aquatic life is missing, dead; periwinkle, fishes are nolonger there and that was a source of livelihood for women.
“Nosource of drinking water as our waters are polluted even down to boreholes,wells and even rain water; no way for good water. Why jump this importantemergency measure? They have not started. As a MOSOP member, I must be there ifthey are to do something”, she stated.
Windeesaid K-Dere has 56 oil wells and the level of effect from devastation from oilpollution is better imagined running through the farm lands, creeks and evenwithin the community as there are oil locations within the community. For thesereasons she said, if any real action is taking place on the clean-up, people inthat community must be aware.
DrPatience Osaro-ejiji, a woman leader from another impacted community,Alode-Eleme said not much is on ground and that water is still an issue. Shehowever said some meetings had taken place with regard to the clean-up in hercommunity explaining that she first became aware of the clean-up when inNovember 2018, she was asked to organize women on sensitization on the project.
“November1, 2018 was the first time of our women hearing about the issue. One monthlater, HYPREP visited Alode for the first time but nobody told me. A woman alerted her on the visit. The visitshe said was to introduce the contractor that would handle the clean-up projectthere. There have been follow up by the Ministry of Environment to meet withchiefs, and youth leaders after visiting Shell, to introduce the threecontractors foe the clean-up.
Osaro-ejijisaid they were told 160 youths would be employed, trained and certified byHYPREP but only one of the three companies has come while the initial salaryfixed at N160,000 has been slashed to N100,000.
Thewomen are demanding that girls be engaged alongside boys for the exercise.“Send girls and women to the training. All these things happening are so becausewomen are not involved in the programme”.
Supportingcall for provision of clean water to affected communities, Osaro-ejijicommunities like Ogale and Alode were supplied water by tankers for like sixmonths at the inception of the clean-up but that had stopped even though thewater need is high.
“Allthe water in our land is polluted; you cannot wash with or drink it. Our womencannot go to farm again because the land is bad. There is cancer of the skin,breast, allover, rashes, children are dying. You wake up you bring out sootfrom your nose, everywhere is soot, rain water, soot and there is nothing youcan do”, she stated, adding that the old women are worse off as they are forcedto use the UNEP condemned water not being economically strong to purchase waterfrom truck pushers or sachet water for drinking.
According to the UNEP Report on Ogoni, thebenzene content in water in the affected Eleme communities is 300 per centhigher than normal water content.
While for women in K-Dere and Alode-Eleme the needful is yet to be addressed, Eucharia Brownson from Kwakwa, another impacted community said her people have never seen HYPREP officials except for some few men ad chiefs, lamenting that they are a forgotten people.
“Weare very sorry for being where we are. We have never seen HYPREP, maybe a fewmen and some chiefs. We are oil producing but no light, no water, no school,and still using the polluted water. We are in the bush, nothing is coming ourway.
“Wecan’t see well because of pollution, we have waist pain; am pleading towhoever, to help us. We are suffering; we have nobody in government, no bigman; they have killed all our men”, she cried.
Contributingto discussions on the clean-up, journalists observed an unwillingness to beopen about the exercise on the part of HYPREP made worse by the factions in theleadership of the Ogoni umbrella pressure group, MOSOP.
Theycharged Ogonis to unite and speak in one voice to be able to ensure the projectis followed duly and transparently.
Thejournalists also urged Kebetkache to join the call for a more united Ogoni andconvey the position of the women to HYPREP and key stakeholders.