WHAT may well turn out to be a tragedy could be brewing in Baruwa Community, Alimosho Local Council of Lagos State.
For close to 20 years, residents of the community have borne the risk of disease and death owing to oil leaks and pollution caused by petroleum products’ pipelines lay underground across the area.
At present, all wells dug in the town have to be kept under lock and key to prevent security, health and fire disasters.
When The Guardian visited the area last week, there was the unmistakable stench of fuel in the air.
“Most people buy water, which we do not know where it is from. We have been appealing to the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) and relevant government agencies for almost 16 years to help even with a treatment plant but nothing has happened yet,” said Baale of the community, Alhaji Halid Baruwa, told The Guardian.
He said leaking pipelines situated under the ground in the community had been causing various diseases and that the situation had begun to generate a security threat to the community.
He also revealed that the community was in the process of writing a petition to the Police and all concerned regulatory bodies on the imminent security concern the oil spill was posing.
He explained that the problem, which started as far back as 1996, mostly affected, Oyewole, Olupono, Ajuno, Kamila Baruwa, Taiwo Talabi, adding: “Cases of rashes, watery eyes, chest infection, dizziness and irritation have been recorded, all linked to the leaking pipelines that have polluted our sources of water. “The taste and smell of the water has remained unpleasant since I became Baale, which is now about 11 years ago."
He recalled that the government sent some experts in 2002 to check what the problem was, and that they discovered that some petroleum pipelines had burst and polluted the underground water.
Two years ago, NNPC attempted to sink more boreholes in addition to three that had been sunk but the community refused, stressing that it was a water treatment plant they needed since the water underground was already polluted.
“The residents are, therefore, calling on the government to save them from the health hazard facing them,” Baruwa added
“The solution to the problem lies in the hand of the government. The government should save us because our lives are in danger. The government should come to our aid because the water is harmful to human health”, he pleaded.
The member of House of Representatives representing Alimosho and Agege Federal Constituencies, Adeola Solomon Olamilekan, lamented the situation, which he said has devastated much of the fishing activities of the community.
He said, “We have been trying to see the end of this threat to the lives of our people for sometime.
“At one point, about 13 tanker loads of petroleum products were taken out of wells in the community. This is very disturbing and I will raise a motion on the floor of the House on this matter.”
The Executive Director of Quincy Law and Environment, an organisation currently championing the cause of the Baruwa community, Femi Oshoniyi told The Guardian that since 2004, various efforts to get government to handle the matter with the urgency and consideration of the best interests of the community had all proved futile.
He said they were even considering the option of seeking legal redress.
Only last week, the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, expressed concern over oil spillage in Baruwa area of Alimosho Local Council, Ilado and other parts of the state.
Speaking while receiving members of the Federal House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Fashola said the situation could lead to the outbreak of diseases capable of wiping out communities, if not checked.
“We are sowing a seed of poor health for the future. These things are toxic, they create environmental difficulties and they create breathing and respiratory disorder,” he told the committee members.