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Special Report: Ilaje Struggles For Survival After Oil Spillage

After the July 1998 oil spillage in the Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State, Nigeria, the government and Chevron Oil Company have left communities in this area under-developed and residents in abject poverty. 

Recently, residents of Ilaje have been battling with the aftermath of the spillage, which has done a lot of damage since.

In a visit to the Ayetoro community, popularly known as Happy City, the sea incursion has destroyed houses and other valuables item. 

Mr Olusegun Olaoye, one of the residents of the area, said since the sea incursion started in the early 1880s, many lives and properties worth billions of Naira have been destroyed.

He also added that damage caused by the oil spill to nature in riverine communities has normally been associated with damage to farmland, vegetation and death for aquatic life. 

Also, Emanuel Aralu and Atimise Benson highlighted the lack of proper education and health care as the major issues facing the community since the sea incursion started. 

“The primary and secondary schools have been relocated four times to ensure the safety of the pupils and students, which has affected their education a lot.”

In Beku, a community in Ugbo kingdom, Ilaje local government, when this reporter visited Mr Owopebijo Omonuwa, he was worried about where to put all his belongings after the overnight sea incursion saw his building.

Lamenting over his ordeal, Owopebijo said catching fish, which is the primary occupation in the area, has been affected by the spillage and surviving has become hard for him and his family. 

Unfortunately, the Ayetoro and Beku communities were not the only affected areas of sea incursion. Several places like Mese, Awoye, Molutehin, Oretan, Jirinwo, Odofado, Ilepete and Ilowo were also visited.

In the Mese, the residents have vacated the community because of the sea incursion while Odofado, Gbagira, Jirinwo are preparing to leave their homes as well.

Lack Of Water 

In Molutehin community, there is no pipe-borne water. According to the villagers, there was a water project ongoing in the community before the contractors vacated the scene leaving behind their equipment. Since then, several pleas and letters have been sent to the government and Chevron to come to their rescue. None of these has been replied. A member of the community who spoke anonymously said the residents live on sachet water.

Mese, Obenla, Jirinwo, Ayetoro and other communities are not left out in the battle for drinkable water. When asked how they get drinkable water, the villagers said the people travelling several kilometres by boat to get good drinking water from the Opuekaba platform, the water used for the cooling of engines.

Poor Education System

“We hired teachers with community money to ensure our children go to school,” said one of the parents who granted our reporter an interview.

In Molutehin Comprehensive College, many incomplete classrooms and staff quarters were visible. According to the residents, the abandoned classrooms and staff quarters have laid dormant for over ten years, and most of the classrooms housed snakes and other dangerous animals.

In the same vein, Community Primary School, Odun-Oyinbo, two classes were combined together with one teacher handling all the teaching activities. When asked why teachers are few, Ayenuro Kehinde Nelson said whenever teachers heard about the critical conditions of this place, they transferred back to the city.

Health Centre Palaver

When our reporter alighted at the Basic Health Centre, Odun Oretan, the centre appeared open, but doctors and nurses were not available. Also, the health centre lacks adequate equipment.

In Molutehin, the case was different; the only health centre in the community was incomplete and lay abandoned. Speaking, one of the village head opined that since the spillage polluted the people’s source of drinking water, the population’s health is in the worst condition and they suffer various forms of skin and gastric infections.

Corroborating his point on how the sick people get adequate treatment, he confirmed that they are either transported to Igbokoda or private owned hospitals in the nearby communities.

In conclusion, all visited communities are calling on the federal and the state government and Chevron, especially, to strike the iron why it still hot and help them before they are all wiped away by the sea.

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