The discovery of crude oil in Owaza Community of Abia State has brought nothing but CRUDE AND OILY pains to the people. Apart from being crude and oily, the pains are sticky and
slippery like crude oil.
Two days ago, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ikpeazu, Enyinnaya Appolos and I led a team of journalists from various media agencies to Owaza Community in Ukwa West LGA of Abia State.
This fact finding mission was a follow up to the visit the day before by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to the Community to witness first hand, the unimaginable level of injustice meted to the people of Owaza Community and by extension, Abia State by Oil Companies.
The Governor instructed that we go there, see things for ourselves, tell the world what we saw as a prelude to the series of very decisive steps he plans to take going forward on the issue.
Owaza Community is located off the Enugu PH Expressway. It’s off the Obehie junction on the right when heading towards Port Harcourt from Aba.
Inside this community, one is confronted with gory tales and faces that depict despondency, hopelessness, frustration, sadness and anger.
Oil prospecting started in Owaza in 1958 when the then SHELL BP dug it’s first oil well there. Oil was found in commercial quantities in 1961 and ever since then, oil has been mined from that community on a daily basis till date. Inside the community is littered several oil facilities including well heads (the famous CHRISTMAS TREE), flow stations, storage facilities and others. Of course, the entire soil in the community has buried in it, a complex network of pipelines crisscrossing the entire community which are used to ship crude oil from the community for export. Some of these pipelines are up to 32 inches in size.
The Imo River 1 Flow Station has the largest production capacity amongst all onshore flow stations in the country.
In addition to crude oil, Owaza produces gas. The Nigeria Gas Company Ltd, a subsidiary of the NNPC has an imposing presence in Owaza.
Owaza has two major flow stations – The Imo River 1 and The Imo River 3 with a combined total production of 116,000 barrels of crude oil daily. These two flow stations have embedded in them over 100 well heads capped with Christmas Trees. The crude oil from these well heads are collated at the two flow stations after a complex separation process that removes water and sludge which naturally follow the crude at the mining stage.
The clean crude oil is now shipped through pipelines to the Bonny Terminal where it is stored in 23 massive storage tanks, ready for export.
In terms of gas, these two well heads produce a combined total production of 7.7 million Standard Cubit Feet of natural gas per day.
Companies like the Nigerian Breweries, International Glass Industries Ltd, the then Aba Textile Mills Ltd and indeed most industries in the South East relied on gas shipped by the Nigerian Gas Company Owaza for their operations.
This is what Owaza Community has given to this country daily since 1961.
But what has Nigeria and the oil companies given to Owaza?
Nothing! Absolutely nothing!
Owaza is a developmental paradox which signposts man’s inhumanity to man. What I saw was a deliberate and well thought out scheme to destroy not just a people but to break down down their will power and strip them of every ounce of their humanity.
Owaza is an ecological disaster with an ecosystem that reminds one of the precarious state of existence which the people have had to contend with over more than half a century.
The injustice here is two dimensional in nature. First to the people of the community themselves and secondly to the government and people of Abia State.
First, I saw that there is no functional hospital in the entire Owaza Community. Not one. Yet Shell Petroleum Development Company Ltd maintains several gigantic oil installations and have so maintained since 1958! They have several workers who ply their trade in these installations.
Meanwhile, the people grapple daily with the dangers of gas flaring. It is important to note here that a greater majority of the gas produced in Owaza are flared into the environment. You will see several flare sites burning and emitting dangerous gaseous substances into the atmosphere. There are several of them. They are visible to the eyes.
When we visited the Palace of one of the Traditional Rulers in the Community, he brought out a big carton filled with drugs which he takes daily to help him stay alive in the face of the assault on their atmosphere.
Owaza has only one secondary school, yet the place looks abandoned and decrepit. The only decent structures there and the renovations there are the ones done by the government of Abia State through ASOPADEC.
The soil there has been destroyed by oil activities. Crops cannot grow again. You will see agricultural crops struggling to find sustenance from a soil that has little or nothing to offer. Economic trees like palm and others are shriveled and dead…some dying.
I saw what used to be the Owaza Community Fish pond which has now been completely destroyed and turned into a huge sand dune owing to relentless oil prospecting activities.
The most thriving business in Owaza is Okada riding. Most of the youths, rely on this for survival. The level of economic activities in the place is unbelievably low.
Our investigations show that since 1958, only TWO indigenes of the community have worked in Shell as full staff and this was in the 1960s. Since then till date, no Owaza son nor daughter has worked in the company as a staff. What they do mostly is to hire youths from the community to do manual labor for them. Yet every day, they see a convoy of air conditioned buses carrying their fellow Nigerians and foreigners guarded by heavily armed soldiers who drive into their community to work at these installations and still leave every day.
In terms of infrastructure, its shockingly non existent. There a few improperly tarred roads done by the NDDC and what looks like a caricature of street lights. There are no proper water schemes and no light. This is a community that produces millions of standard cubit meters of gas everyday used to power and give light to other parts of the country!
Another thing i witnessed is that the only good and solid roads are the one that lead to oil facilities.
It was a most distressing tour for me.
The only decent public building I saw in that community is a church!
Owned by the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star…Olumba Olumba Obu (OOO).
Yet, you will never hear of militancy nor destruction of facilities nor disruption of oil activities here. It’s an amazing anti climax.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has vowed to change this narrative.