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People of Polobubo (Tsekelewu) community in Warri North council area of Delta State have cried out to the World Health Organisation, the Federal Government, Chevron Nigeria Limited, and the Delta State government over the health hazards they are exposed to due a wellhead fire belonging to Chevron that has been raging for almost two months now.
The community made the call following the reported escalation of the wellhead fire, which started April 18, 2019.
They therefore asked the WHO and the Federal Government to prevail on Chevron Nigeria to save them from certain health risks, saying the thick black smoke emanating from the fire had become a major source of worry to the community.
Some members of the community, as well as their leaders who spoke with BusinessDay, described the situation they were faced with since the smoke increased on Monday, as hazardous
A boat trip to the community by our correspondent saw huge black smoke rising sky-high, subjecting the surrounding area to a heavy dark cloud and the water covered by a thin film and some floating dead fishes.
President of Polobubo (Tsekelewu) National Council, Ebilate Mac-Yoroki, in a telephone interview said, “I was just informed that Chevron engineers cut open the head of the burning well-head and that this caused the fire to be oozing horizontally, with a bigger smoke. All the smoke is heading into my community, endangering the lives of my people, their crops and animals and Chevron still maintains this has nothing to do with Polobubo.
“Our appeal is to the Federal Government, our governor, Dr Okowa and the WHO, they should rally round and save us from this plot targeted at exterminating Polobubo people. I don’t think we have been wrong for being peaceful and accommodating host community. For close to two months this fire has been on and now it is getting bigger.”
Narrating the outbreak of the smoke and how the community reacted to it, the chairman of Polobubo Oil and gas Committee, Deacon Ologun Azikboro said the sudden dark cloud and the black particles it rained on the community caused an initial panic among the people.
“On Monday evening, that was about 4:30pm to 5:00pm, we started seeing some dark particles coming down from the sky, settling on everything; the roofs, the ground and everything outside, including those of us doing one thing or the other outside. This made everybody start panicking and running to hide.
“It was later we realized that the sky above us had been taken over by a strange smoke, which we later learned was coming from the well-head fire. Everything was covered in black after some time, except whatever was inside the house. Then when it later rained on Tuesday, the rain water was black because it washed the black particle on the roofs down,” Azikboro explained.
Also raising the alarm over imminent health challenge in the community, as a result of the development, the secretary of Polobubo Bloc Youth Executives, Markson Aboh, asked that people in the community be relocated in the meantime until the environment becomes more accommodating for the people.
“We are calling on the World Health Organisation to wade into this matter, our people need urgent medical attention as we speak, in fact, we need to be relocated out of here for the time being because the air we inhale here is not fit for humans to take in, that’s the reason I’m covering my nose. We are begging government; we are begging Chevron to do something very fast. Also, they should compensate our people because we are not sure of what will become of us in the next few weeks,” he pleaded.
Efforts to get a response from Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) was unsuccessful as none of its personnel in the media department could be reached on Wednesday.