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Anxiety as sea encroachment subdues Sangana community

ocean surge threat

Outof thenumerouschallenges facing people of the Niger Delta region because of the blessing of crude oil, another challenge confronting them in recent times is the problem of sea encroachment. Of course, other major problems which are unconnected with oil exploration have been going on in the region for more than 60 years with little or nothing to show that the black gold is being taken from these communities. Now, they have run into the deep ocean where they felt that thecommunityfolkscannotcome and disturb them. They called it divorcement.

Petroleum Industry Act

All thanks to the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) which was signed by the present administration although the process has been on. If what is written in the document is done for the host communities, then these locals will have acoursetosmilebutifnot, mostof the host communities including Sangana Community in Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State will be no more in a few year time as the sea has already swallowedabout50percentofthat community. The sea has washed away about half of the community with buildings, trees, mangroves and other substances washed into the sea. Incidentally, the people are visibly helpless as they keep on pleading with necessary stakeholders to come to their aid without any solution for now. The case of people living inside water yet soap has entered into their eyes. About six months ago, a gas explosion occurred in that community through a con oil facility known as Adriatic one which spills gas into the atmosphere killing aquatic animals while people living around the rig were not spared.

Conoil allegedly defaults

In fact six months after, Conoil was yet to pay compensation neither was any form of treatment given to the locals who complained of all manner of health challengesatthetimemeanwhile, Conoil company quickly evacuated its staff to Warri immediately after the incident occurred according to the locals. After receiving a series of complaints from the chairman of the fishing union of Sangana Noel Ikomikumo, this reporter set out to Sangana Community to once again see the level of devastation done as a result of the gas spill and other environmental factors. And the journey to Sangana Community was a tedious one as the reporter truly had to be on top of the water for more than two hours meandering and crisscrossing the creeks and the high sea amidst heavy waves. But most of those locals are always on that journey either coming in or going to the state capital. Of course, people find it difficult to get to that place as everything is very expensive there. Hence you will not see fresh things to buy while a few things you will see are very costly like a pack of sachet water sold for N350.

Soaring prices

Infact, thepricesofeverything aretripledcompared towhatthey are being sold in Yenagoa, hence the six days spent there was money gulping. But so pathetic is the fact that these guys look at money and move out of their environment on a daily basis courtesy of these oil and gas companies. As a matter of fact, Chevron, Agip, and Conoil among other oil companiesareinthatcommunity but there is not much evidence all thanks to one body known as KEFFES Foundation which has broughtsomefacilitiestothearea. Although there was information that some walkways and the community generator were in placecourtesyofConoilandChevron. Ironically, they were seen being very happy and content in their current condition. And to think that the ocean has taken over the community is another cup of tea. In other climes, the state government of such states would have turned the place into a tourist site but here in Bayelsa, the state may not haveknownthatsuchasiteexists. And for the people of Sangana, it hasturnedintopaininsteadofjoy. And this reporter went to see another bigger problem which was the ocean encroachment. As it stands, the people don’t know the problem to solve first now. Is it the gas spill that has spoilt everything including aquatic life, rendering them jobless as fishermen and women or the communitythatisbeing consumedbythe oceanondailybasis? Theyarejust at the mercy of the sea for now.

Residents lament

Speaking to New Telegraph, Koki Ayibatonye, an indigene of the community working with Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment on the devastating effect of the sea encroachment and gas spill, said, “Most of us are already IDPs in our own community because of coastal erosion. The issue is that they are undermining the wave and the water washed away the sand on top and the thing collapsed. That led to the removal of sand that was used to feel the place. That was why that project failed. “Theprojectdidn’tlastbeforeit collapsed. Thedredging wasdone by a Nigerian dredging marine and the piling was done by Halm dredging a Dutch company. “When they did it, it was fantastic just that the project couldn’t withstand the waves. Sangana is just close to the sea. “Globally most communities sited by the sea suffer oceanification because of the melting of ice of the water level has increased. “The water normally ravages the communities that are cited by theshorebutouroilactivitiesmay contribute to the erosion. “Most times, there are oil spillages and snares of oil are found on the pieces so it is believed that substances may have weakened thebond of thesoilstructureof the place so it is prone to erosion. “Sometimes when seismic companies came they used these explosives to detonate the soil. They drill the soil and put explosives and meters beneath the soil and detonate it. “That is how they do their seismic activities and any explosion that causes such waves in the soil disintegrates the soil back to rough particles. All those contributetotheweakeningofthesoil structure of the place. “Thesecompaniesyouseehere do not have offices in Bayelsa so we go to Lagos if we want to communicate with them. How many times have they thrown tear gas in Lagos? A Yoruba man is heading this place. Let there be a cleanup of the environment. Let NDDC come and complete our shore protection. They started that project in 2010 and it was abandoned.”

Myriad of problems

Also, Martins Pama, a 52-yearold, whose house is already being swallowed by the sea, said: “My uncle built this house but by then, they have come to pile this place in 1992 and after then we hoped that we are safe and that was why I advised my uncle to come and build here then. “Then, later on, that piling they did collapsed then this place was very lengthy. You can trek from here to that far place. From the time that the piling collapsed, it started cutting to this extent. Now we are planning to relocate to another place. “The community has asked the company that abandoned the piling project to come and do it but they said they can’t do it alone. They said that it is the Federal Government that will do the job. “Since then, I didn’t hear anything again. There was a road around there and some upstairs then and there were big compounds where we were playing football. “We didn’t know that it will get to this stage. Most of the time, when the big tide comes to the water gets as close to the house and we become afraid but since I began to live here I have that courage that it won’t get to my house. “Most times, when I’m sleeping because of the noise I can’t sleep well. If I sleep like two hours, I wake up. Now I’m planning to leave this place but it is money that is holding me. “I believe that these companies here and government can remedy the situation. The federal government can even do it. This place is one of the places that is generating money for the federal government. Let them come and help us.”

Close shave

In her reaction, Ayibatonye John, amiddle-aged womaninher 40s recounting her ordeal in the handsoftheoceanencroachment, said: “That green boat (pointing into the sea) floating in the river there was our family land where I built my house before the erosion washed everything away. “This long bridge to the end is oldSangana, thewaterhaswashed the old Sangana away. Sanagan is divided into three parts. “This part of Sangana is the old Sanagna, the middle and the new Sangana. The erosion has washed away the old Sangana. It is an old few houses that are remaining. You see all these buildings around here it is through the mercy of God thatthey willstay till this year ends. “Before when I was very small, I used to walk around that place where you are seeing waves. Water has washed away plenty part of Sangana. Even the companies that are drilling oil here I believe are contributing to the problem. “YouseeAdriaticone(pointing into the deep ocean) managed by Con oil, the other one is Chevron Texaco, this one is gunboat guiding the Con oil. All these companies are operating here but they are not doing well for the community. “NDDC has abandoned that shore protection project. We are begging whosoever is in charge to come and complete the project. Our life is in danger. Erosion has washed everything away. The water has washed many parts of Sangana away. “The community is just remaining only two parts now. We had old, middle Sangana but the erosion has washed away old Sangana and has eaten deep into the middle Sangana now. People should come and witness what is going on in Sangana community. The waves have driven us away.”

 

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