• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Why there is hope for erosion-ravaged towns in Bayelsa

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Coastal erosion has been a constant menace to several communities in Bayelsa State over the years without hope of any action by governments, administrations and relevant agencies.

But the recent visit of the management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to Sangana Community in Brass Local Government Area of the state on the directive of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu over the threat of ocean surge raises hope for communities suffering similar fate in Bayelsa.

Read also: Coastal erosion: Lagos mulls groin technology to save communities

The visit has opened a new approach in the long struggle against erosion menace by riverine and litoral communities in the state.

The Tinubu-ordered quick intervention by the NDDC could be described as renewed hope for the Sangana people who have for years looked forward to such a time that their plight would receive the needed attention.

Sangana is one of the eight communities in Brass and Southern Ijaw Local government Areas that make up KEFFES Development Foundation under Chevron. KEFFES is an acronym for Koluama 1 and 2, Ezetu 1 and 2, Foropa, Fish Town, Ekeni and Sangana.

These eight communities on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean are oil producing and face the same fate due to ocean surge even as the original site of Koluama was washed away in 1952. This split the community into Koluama 1 and 2 that are faced with the devastating ocean surge.

So, one can imagine the joy of the people of Sangana at the visit of the NDDC delegation led by the Managing Director, Samuel Ogbuku, for an on-the-spot assessment of the level of devastation and also to present relief materials worth millions of naira.

Addressing the people, Ogbuku described President Tinubu as a caring leader who has the interest of his people at heart and expressed the President’s joy at the peaceful disposition of the community in spite of its economic importance.

Oil exploration and exploitation activities have been going on in the community for several decades, but it has continued to maintain a high level of peaceful relationship with the international oil companies operating in the area.

Ogbiku said: “Before your letter of appeal arrived our head office in Port Harcourt, the ocean surge in Sangana was already publicised in the media. The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, saw it and directed that we must come and see what is happening in Sangana and give him feedback.”

He told the people that he felt elated at the presidential directive which indicated that the country has a very responsible president who was interested in the welfare of the people, no matter how far they are from the centre.

He assured them of the determination of the Commission to salvage the situation, saying, “My presence in your community, apart from being a son of the soil, is in response to Mr. President’s directive and having witnessed first-hand the devastation in your community, we will proceed immediately to see how we can salvage the situation.”

While urging the people of Sangana community to continue to maintain the peace so as to attract development as development can only take place in a peaceful atmosphere, he assured them that the NDDC was going to use the best modern technology to tackle the Sangana erosion scourge.

He said: “We had earlier awarded the contract for shore protection in your community, but we are going to review it. The whole idea in NDDC is that we are also looking at new technology such as Geotube system. The system is also used in rebuilding and reclaiming the land naturally.”

Ogbuku also used the opportunity to call on the multinational oil companies operating in the area to join hands in addressing the persistent ocean surge in the communities around the area as NDDC cannot do it alone.

“Having ascertained the situation on ground, we will go back and put the papers together and also see how we can partner with the state government and the international oil companies to see how we can all come together to ensure that we protect our communities,” he said.

Chairman of the Sangana Council of Traditional Rulers, Moses Theophilus Kenibara VII, Amadabo of Moko-Ama Sangana, thanked President Tinubu for the love showered on the people of Sangana community.

Kenibara also used the opportunity to thank Mr. President for appointing their son from Bayelsa State as the Managing Director of NDDC and assured that the people of the community would continue to maintain the peace and cooperate with government for the development of the country.

A former Chairman of Brass Local Government Area and community leader, Bello Bina, thanked Ogbuku for personally finding time to visit the community and commended him for his proactive nature.

Renewed Hope for other impacted communities:

The attention being received by Sangana community is an indication that communities that share a similar fate could also draw Federal Government attention to their plight and get remediation.

Bayelsa State which has the longest coastline of all the litoral states in Nigeria has a number of other communities impacted by ocean surge such as Agge in Ekeremor Local Government Area that are yet to receive the needed attention.

Described as ‘more deltaic than Delta State and more riverine than Rivers State’, Bayelsa is the flood plain of the country as the major rivers, River Niger and River Benue, empty their waters into the Atlantic Ocean through it.

As a depositional area, it is also full of sand bars and spits which affect navigation and in addition contribute to river erosion menace from which a large number of communities across the eight local government areas suffer.

Several of them like Obogoro on the Ekoli Creek in Yenagoa Local Government Area, Ayama in Ogbia Local Government Area and Anibeze in Sagbama Local Government Area are yet to receive the desired attention.

The present effort at Obogoro by the Bayelsa State Government can best be described as an exercise in futility as the work to create an alternative passageway for river is so slow to make any meaningful impact.

Communities affected by coastal erosion have lost arable lands, houses and public infrastructure such as roads, schools, health centres and in some instances, lives, to the frothing and churning waters.

In very serious cases, they have had to abandon their sites and establish new sites as in the case of Koluama community in 1952.

That is why the Presidential directive on the Sangana ocean surge offers renewed hope in line with Mr. President’s mantra of Renewed Hope for such communities in Bayelsa State and elsewhere in the larger Niger Delta region.

Commenting on the presidential directive, a seasoned environmentalist and field officer of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Alagoa Morris, told BD Sunday that the directive would surely raise the hope of victims.

He recalled that the late President Shehu Shagari had ordered the provision of shoreline protection when he visited Sangana community to assess the damage caused by oil spillage his time in office over four decades ago.

But Morris explained that the shoreline protection contract that was awarded several years later by the NDDC was not executed up to 20 percent completion before it was abandoned by the contractor.

He said: “Sadly, even the shoreline protection contract awarded years after by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was abandoned without doing up to 20percent of the job. The project has remained abandoned till date.

“Interestingly, following the very recent ocean surge in Sangana and the cries for help that it evoked, including the matter being raised on the floor of the House of Representatives, a presidential directive prompted the management of the NDDC to visit Sangana with some relief materials on Saturday, 23rd March, 2024.”

On the presidential directive, Morris stated: “Such a pronouncement would surely raise hope of victims”, but pointed out that until the needed action was taken the situation remained a threat.

“However, the threat posed by coastal erosion remains until the needed action is taken. This is why, the NDDC should not only match pronouncements with desirable actions, but also not to delay action,” he noted.

Morris commended the NDDC for the visit and the promise by the managing director that the interventionist agency that it would use the most modern and suitable method to without delay address the erosion menace.

He said that the river bank erosion and coastal erosion have increasingly become major ecological threats to most communities in the state, but without any effective action by relevant state or federal agencies to address the menace.