Ijaw community worried over water, air pollution, health hazards

Residents of Polobubo (Tsekelewu) community in Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State have sent a save-our-soul message to the World Health Oganisation (WHO) to prevail on a major oil company to save them from certain health risks.

The call followed reported escalation of the well-head fire, which began on April 18, raining thick black soot over the community since Monday, thus creating tension among the people.

When The Nation visited the community yesterday morning, a boat ride towards the direction of the fire showed a huge black smoke billowing skyward. The environment was cloudy.

The water was covered by a thin film with some floating fishes- all dead.
Some of the residents recounted their ordeals to reporters, decrying the situation they had faced since Monday.

They called on the WHO and the Federal Government to take urgent steps to help them prevent imminent health disaster.

In a telephone conversation, the President of Polobubo (Tsekelewu) National Council, Mr. Ebilate Mac-Yoroki, said: “I was just informed that the oil company’s engineers cut open the head of the burning well-head and that this caused the fire to be oozing horizontally, with a bigger smoke.”

According to Mac-Yokori, the smoke was endangering the lives of the people, their crops and animals, calling on the owner of the faulty facility to act fast.

“Our appeal is to the Federal Government, our governor; Dr. Okowa and the World Health Organisation, they should rally round and save us from this plot targeted at exterminating Polobubo people. I don’t think we have been wrong for being peaceful and accommodating host community.

For close to two months this fire has been on and now it is getting bigger.”
Narrating how the community reacted to the smoke, the Chairman of Polobubo Oil and Gas Committee, Deacon Ologun Azikboro, said the sudden dark cloud and the black particles it rained on the community caused an initial panic among the people.

He said: “On Monday evening, that was about 4:30pm to 5pm, we started seeing some dark particles coming down from the sky, settling on everything; the roofs, the ground and everything outside, including those of us doing one thing or the other outside. This made everybody to start panicking and running to hide.

“It was later we realised that the sky above us had been taken over by a strange smoke, which we later learned was coming from the well-head fire. Everything was covered in black after some time, except whatever was inside the house. Then when it later rained on Tuesday, the rain water was black because it washed the black particle on the roofs down”, Azikboro explained.

Also raising the alarm over the imminent health challenge, the secretary of Polobubo Bloc Youth Executives, Markson Aboh, canvassed the temporary relocation of the people.

He said: “We are calling on the WHO to intervene in this matter. Our people need urgent medical attention as we speak, in fact, we need to be relocated out of here for the time being because the air we inhale here is not fit for humans to take in, that’s the reason I’m covering my nose.

“We are begging the government; we are begging the oil company to do something very fast. Also, they should compensate our people because we are not sure of what will become of us in the next few weeks.”

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