Polobubo (Tsekelewu) community is one of the ten Ijaw communities that made up the Egbema clan in Warri North, Delta State. It is situated in a boundary between Delta and Ondo state and is blessed with abundant deposits of crude oil within its environment. It is host to Chevron and Shell Petroleum Development Company since the 1970s. Apart from several oil wells and pipelines crisscrossing the environment, Shell’s Opuama Flow Station and Chevron’s Opuekeba Flow station that flare gas are located in the community environment. A third oil company, Sahara Energy has also concluded an Environmental Impact Assessment [EIA] with a view to operate at Polobubo (Tsekelewu) Marginal Field.
ERA’s attention was recently drawn to the plight of Polobubo (Tsekelewu) people, as they have been forced to contend with the adverse impacts of canals constructed from the Atlantic Ocean by Shell and Chevron to access their oil facilities. These canals that were constructed in the early 1980s have adversely affected the ecosystem, poisoning water and vegetation and by extension, livelihoods.
ERA monitor gathered that the Oloduwa Creek [the only access to the community], which used to be pure has now been polluted as the people can no longer drink from it any more. The people’s fishing activity has been so affected just like logging activities. These developments prompted ERA’s visit to the community 17th of January, 2011. ERA’s field monitors were led by an indigene, Mid-West E.K [Esq].
Mr. Ebilate Mac-Yoroki:
“The situation in my community is not just pathetic, it is really critical. It all started as a result of the canals constructed by Chevron and Shell from the Atlantic Ocean. Our people used to drink directly from the Oloduwa Creek, because it was a fresh water environment. Before the canals that brought in salt water to destroy our environment, we had a sustainable environment; we supplied fish to other communities, tap palm wine from the raffia trees that were everywhere around us and also engaged in lots of logging activities. Then too, we used to have manatee in the creek because it was deep enough. The negative environmental and social impacts of the canals are enormous. The present scenario is that, we now have plants that are alien to us; which serves no economic purpose to my people when compared to the rich vegetation that existed before the canalization by the companies.
The fresh water environment has been completely destroyed by the salt water from the Atlantic Ocean; replacing same with brackish water and related vegetation. Besides, we can no longer access our community with even building materials in larger boats. I must confess, the situation has caused the people of Polobubo (Tsekelewu) so much hardship. You will also notice that our people are now going miles away to fetch drinking water [with canoe] from the facilities of the oil companies. And, for how long must we continue to suffer this? We seek both social and environmental justice. We gradually becoming a landlocked and sinking community, hence we want Chevron to block and refill the canal and save us from a situation whereby we have to be forced to leave our ancestral home, but God forbid this…..”
Chief Wilson Yoroki:
“Our environment was rich in biodiversity. All that is now history as I speak with you. We have lost our raffia palm forest. When we were young we used to tap palm wine from the raffia trees that abound in the community environment. And you know these raffia palm grows in fresh water swamps alone. But when the salt water was introduced through the construction of the canals from the Atlantic Ocean, it turned our once fresh water brackish and wiped out all the raffia palms and other economic trees in the community. Again, we used to supply fish to Sapele in those days because we were doing well in that activity but right now, my people are buying ice fish from Sapele. Our livelihood has been destroyed. And this is one of the reasons why most of our youths are leaving the community and going to the city in search of other means of livelihood; leaving the older folks behind.”
“…..Following our cries, the Niger Delta Development Commission [NDDC] awarded contract in 2004 to a company to dredge the Creek and save us from the hardship we experience, but the company did very little or nothing and disappeared. We took the matter on with NDDC and the company concerned. Up till now the matter is still in court; we have spent so much money borrowed outside the community. It is as bad as that. NDDC told us that about 35 per cent of the dredging was done. But we were surprised how they calculated 35 per cent and, from where or what?”
Mid-West E.K [Esq]:
“….Our fathers actually opposed the canalization project of Chevron and Shell. But, the companies brought in Mobile Police to intimidate, beat and arrest them. They took our fathers to Ondo state where they were detained and made to go through harrowing experiences. That was how they silenced our voice and have subsequently forced us to suffer untold hardship and denial of livelihood. This is our plight.”
ERA monitor observed that the negative impacts of the canalization in Polobubo (Tsekelewu) Community has caused grave economic, social and environmental hardships and is now beyond the capacity of the people to solve.
ERA’s field monitors observed that, apart from the shallow Creek which affected the engine of the speedboat that was used during the field trip, large expanse of impacted land is now lying waste, with little or no trees in the environment, when compared to other communities.
Indigenes were noticed returning conveying drums of water on canoe [from the oil company facilities away from the community], a very tasking activity for both men and women. The community is also in dire need of development as there is nothing to show for the oil wealth derived from the community environment. Some women and children were seen engaging in fishing activities.
1. The Federal and State governments compel Chevron and Shell take prompt steps to remediate the environment and compensate the people.
2. Chevron and Shell provide alternative source of drinking water for the community.
3. Shell and Chevron dialogue with the community to avoid violent conflicts as a result of their (oil companies) actions which have created problems for community folks.
4. The community seek legal redress to make Shell and Chevron accountable for their plight.
Join the campaign #savePOLOBUBO #saveTSEKELEWU #saveOPUAMA on Twitter as we stand against Les Blair, Emeka Offor & their cohorts still abusing our people and degrading our environment each day.
Let us not forget to campaign and calling the IOCs Shell & Chevron to give account of their over 30 years operation in our community and environment.
Thanks to http://julietteabandokwe.blogspot.co.uk