• Sunday, December 03, 2023
businessday logo


Water as key human right: The horrific experience of Ibaa community in Rivers

Water as key human right: The horrific experience of Ibaa community in Rivers

In 2015, through Resolution 300 on the right to water obligations, the African Commission mandated its working group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to develop “Principles and guidelines on the right to assist states in the implementation of their obligations. These obligations include to respect, protect and fulfil the individual and collective rights to water, among others.

Similarly, the African Commission has been charged with the promotion and protection of citizens’ fundamental rights irrespective of where these rights are violated. Articles 13(3) and 16 (1) provide for access to public services, such as water, sanitation, among others.

To emphasise the right to water, Chapter 2, Section 20 of the Nigerian Constitution explicitly states, especially on Environmental objective that the state shall protect and improve the environmental and safeguard the water, air and land, forest and wild life of Nigeria. Basically, the Constitution as the grand norm, has highlighted the right to life, and any act or omission that threatens the health of the people contravenes the Constitution.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948 by the United Nation; particularly Article 25 lists rights which include food, water, sanitation, housing, medical care, among others. This means that under International human rights laws, access to clean affordable water is a fundamental human right of every individual.

Read also: Arms race in the Niger Delta

Furthermore, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), particularly goal 6 emphasised availability, sustainability and management of water and sanitation for all.

All these laws are made for all the communities in the Niger Delta irrespective of whether they are oil-producing community or not. The pathetic situation of Ibaa community in Emuoha Local Government of Rivers State is a case in point, of a proof of environmental insecurity and terrorism against the people.

The report of the Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment on Ibaa community is an insight into how Rivers’ communities are suffocating from environmental negligence of multinationals doing business in the Niger Delta.

This report is an initiative of a Non-Governmental Organization, Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre in collaboration with Obelle Concern Citizens with the support of BOTHENDS and the Institute of Pollution Studies, Rivers State University. In this regard, the longtime relationship between Ibaa community and some oil prospecting companies is characterised by lack of trust and greater demonstration of abandonment after several years of economic prosperity to the firms, while the community leaves in squalor and underdevelopment.

In an interview with the Paramount Ruler, His Royal Highness, Eze Sunday Wobodo Jonah, the Nyeweali-Ali of Ibaa and his Council of Chiefs, on the sideline of the launch of the report, the monarch expressed regret over the sorry state of their livelihood and the presence of the hydrocarbon in their underground water due to many years of oil exploration in the community. He also said that the community’s water sources have been polluted.

The report revealed that crude from Manifold 8 trunk line owned by an oil firm may have leaked into the community’s underground water. The report claimed that this was discovered on January 15, 2016 where the crude oil was found in one Samuel Chukwure’s hand-dug ground water well that raised public concern. The report also stated that despite several years of oil exploration in the area, the community cannot boast of any social development as a dividend from the oil.

It also stated that the community had written series of letters to the IOCs to address the abnormalities but to no avail. It also noted that the pollution has spread to Ovuahu Comprehensive High School as well as Sunday Egbunne’s only source of drinking water, where black crude substance has been allegedly spotted.

“On May, 2022 the community woke up to discover that wells were sealed clandestinely without their knowledge or permission to conceal evidence,” a source said.

This environmental report is corroborated by an engaged qualified environmentalist contacted by the community to investigate the water quality, including air and soil.

The shocking revelation after the samples were collected and analysed showed high concentration of hydrocarbon (TPH, PAH and BTEX), with heavy presence of metal arsenic, iron, nickel, calcium, chromium, and methane with other contaminants.

Read also: Digitalisation: FG, NDDC, others transforming agriculture entrepreneurship in Niger Delta

Conclusively, the report recommended among others that the impacted families should be relocated to a safe place with the provision of safe drinking water, while tasking government at all levels to investigate the aforementioned report to ascertain the cause of the oil leakage, especially its impact on the environment, their livelihood and the people.

With the magnitude of the damage to their underground water, it is expedient that the firms responsible as the polluter should engage with the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency ( NOSDRA), the community and the Civil Society Organisations where they will use the contamination assessment criteria such as Environmental Guidelines and Standard for the Petroleum Industry in Nigeria (EGASPIN), to conduct an independent investigation with a view to cleaning up the mess before the community goes into extinction.

As Albert Szent-Gyorgyi rightly put it, “Water is life’s matter and matrix, mother medium. There is no life without water.”