Women of Obotim Nsit, a community in Nsit Ibom Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State, have vowed to protest nude to summon the wrath of the gods against the federal government and a gas company whose pipeline was blown up in the community by the Niger Delta Avengers on Sunday, July 24, 2016 for abandoning them to their fate after the destructive incident.
The explosion, they claim, has caused extensive damage to all the houses in the village besides ruining their farmlands and other means of livelihood, only for the company, working for the state-owned oil company Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, which constructed the pipeline, to simply evacuate its equipment after the incident and leave.
Head of the host community, where NNPC gas pipeline control valve is located, Eteidung Okon Aaron Ukpong, told journalists that the explosion destroyed nearly 2000 houses in the community.
Besides shattering the villagers’ means of livelihood, he said the people have become susceptible to untold danger and insecurity, as their homes now stand on shaky foundations with the roofing sheets weakened by harmful chemical effects of the gas emissions.
Mrs. Dorothy Nkanta, women leader of the community, who corroborated the claims of the village head, was aghast at the alleged lack of concern of their plight showed by government and Seven Energy Gas Company before and after the explosion.
While stressing that the explosion destroyed their cassava farms, oil palm and other economic trees, Nkanta lamented that “unfortunately, Seven Energy came and evacuated their equipment from the site not minding the losses the community have recorded.
“That means that they do not care about the disaster they have brought to us after taking our land to lay their pipeline and locate their control valve. They are not bothered about the health hazards and general calamity the emissions from their pipeline have brought to our land.
“What have they said is our offence for giving our land out for them to do business? Is this the kind of reward we should receive from government and the gas company for the good thing we did for them?”
She threatened that the women would protest naked if they nothing is done about their plight.
“But I want to warn that they should not provoke us to go naked on the streets for them else, it will not be well with them,” she said.
“We need compensation for the losses we have recorded as a result of that gas pipeline explosion and for the degradation of our land since that gas pipeline control valve was installed at the Asang Community High School, else, we will go naked on the streets to provoke the gods of our land to action against these people, who have suddenly turned our enemies.”
The village head, Ukpong, added that the problem started in 2008, stressing that “the people’s worry is that while they were all along trying to contend with the health hazards they were subjected to by the chemical emissions from the gas pipeline since it was installed in 2008, the explosion of July 24, 2016 has come to worsen things for them by completely destroying their means of livelihood and shelter, even as the state and federal governments and Seven Energy Gas Company managing the pipeline have showed no concern for the plight of the people.”
Before the explosion, he said since 2008 when the company laid the pipeline, the people no longer record good yields from their farm lands due to harmful chemical discharges from the pipelines into the soil.
He confirmed that Seven Energy Gas Company, the outfit in-charge of the gas pipeline for the NNPC, indeed, came to evacuate its equipment after the explosion not minding the havoc the explosion had caused the community in terms of devastation of farmlands, lives and people’s houses.
“We thought initially that the laying of the gas pipeline control valve at Asang was a blessing, only for it to become a curse to the community.
“Since 2008 that the gas pipeline control valve was located at Asang Community High School, Obotim Nsit, our people started having health challenges due to harmful chemical emissions from the pipeline just as our sources of drinking water got destroyed.
“Besides, our farmlands have become degraded and no longer record good yields as a result of harmful chemical spills on the land. Even the roofs on our houses no longer last beyond one year because of leakages caused by harmful effect of chemicals from the gas pipeline.
“And now, the explosion, which occurred on July 24, 2016, has come to cause complete destruction of our farms, our houses and investments and the attitude of government towards us after we recorded the magnitude of losses, is an indication that the location of the gas pipeline control valve and the gas pipeline passing through our community generally, is a curse rather than a blessing”, the Eteidung insisted.
He, therefore, urged both the state and federal governments to send their agencies to assess the magnitude of distress the pipeline explosion has brought to the people of the community with a view to compensating them.
In response to an earlier inquiry on the complaints by communities about the effects of their attacks on the environment, spokesperson of the militant group, Brig Gen Mudoch Agbinibo, empathized with the people, but said it was an unavoidable corollary they would have to bear in the spirit of the struggle to liberate them, Vanguard reports.