… As HOMEF Assures Capacity Building on Resistant to Land Grabbing, Pollution
Farmers and fisherfolk in Ibeno communities have lamented the increased impact of fossil fuel pollution on their environment and livelihood calling on urgent attention for rescue.
The fisherfolk and farmers who are community members of Okoroutip community in Ibeno have noted that the impact of oil and gas pollution in their domain have advanced from destroying their environment and livelihood into plunging them into years of high debt burden.
Narrating their ordeal on Tuesday during a community prospecting meeting on issues of land grabbing which was organized by the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), the farmers and fisherfolk said most of them who accessed loans to go into farming and others to get fishing equipment have been unable to recoup their investment due to destruction of fishing habitat and farmlands by oil and gas pollution.
Ibeno local government area plays host to the terminal of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited and oil exploration assets of the company. According to data by the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, between January 2022 and August 2023, there have been 26 oil spills in Akwa Ibom offshore and near offshore.
One of the farmers and Missionary in the community, Pastor Abasiubong John, who conducted other participants round his farm on Tuesday regretted that Cassava he planted over a year ago from loan he accessed was yet to bear tubers rather the stems have started decaying due to the presence of oil spills in the farm.
He noted that due to oil pollution, all the green vegetables planted in his farm and that of his neighbors have turned yellow regardless of the fertilizers applied to remediate the soil nutrients destroyed by oil.
According to him, “I am a Missionary here in Ibeno. I also farm to feed my family. This cassava you see here, I planted it over one year ago and when you harvest, nothing will be inside of it. If you leave it to stay more, it will start decaying from the ground. In my place you can plant cassava and it will stay for two years and nothing will happen to it.
“The problem here is that it is always flooded with water mixed with oil. When the water dries up the oil will not dry up and it will destroy the grass and whatsoever you plant even if you apply organic manure, it will not work not to talk of fertilizer. What we are suffering is that all the efforts we put, resources sunk into farming are all gone. “
” Oil extraction affects the organisms in the soil which serve as a source of organic manure. Go round the farms in this community, you cannot see earthworm, millipedes, centipedes, rabbits or snakes, they are all gone due to this activity and it has affected our soil.
Also one Elizabeth Ifum said that the health of her people have been threatened by not only air pollution and gas flaring but by high consumption of crops planted with fertilizers as plants will never grow in the area without high application of fertilizer.
She said sometimes regardless of the increased quantity of fertilizers applied, the pollution from oil and heat from gas flaring makes their plants stunted.
Other fisherfolk who spoke said the gas flared across their waters have caused rising water temperature thus making fishes migrate from their waters resulting in fish drought.
They community members also pointed out that most times their lands have been taken by the extractive companies sometimes with the backing of the government without due consultation to them.
Earlier, Stephen Oduware, Project Lead, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) described Ibeno as a hot spot for pollution and charged the people to be united in resisting fossil fuel pollution and land grabbing.
He said HOMEF would empower them with knowledge on how to go about it through capacity building within 12 months and regretted that the community’s source of livelihood which are farming and fishing have been taken away by the activities of oil companies.
The Project Lead who trained participants on the basics of resisting land grabbing and fossil fuel pollution encouraged the participants to cascade the information across Ibeno communities by telling others what to do.
Oduware said “Between now and next year we will be coming to strengthen your capacity on how to monitor your environment and to take necessary action. We know that Ibeno is a hot spot for pollution, it has affected you people, your livelihood taken away. Some of you can’t go fishing again, some do not have any yield in your farm.
“We want to talk about the impact of extractivism, the impact of oil and gas extraction on community people vis a vis land grabbing. We will think of the best action to take in the training on how to restore the environment.”