The General Manager of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency, Dr. Tunde Ajayi, said the agency is working with the state’s water corporation to channel clean water to Baruwa, a Lagos district where water sources have been contaminated by oil pipelines for nearly three decades.
He said this when the agency officials visited the community alongside representatives of the Institute of Housing and Urban Development Studies, Erasmus University, Rotterdam.
Their visit follows the publication of a reporting project funded by the Pulitzer Center and published in October that found that wells in the community were still contaminated by petrol hydrocarbon nearly three decades after residents reported the first incident in the 90s.
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Ajayi said the state’s water corporation was laying pipes from the closest water works to the community to provide clean water to homes in the area.
The water reticulation project, he said, will, however, take a couple of months.
“The immediate solution is the provision of clean water; afterwards you can now change all the NNPC pipes,” he said.
“I’ve seen research publications about it (pollution) and indeed I’m worried,” Ajayi said.
He said many state agencies, including the federal government-owned oil company, NNPC, would have to map out plans to tackle the contamination.
According to him, Nigeria’s president, Bola Tinubu, a former governor of the state, was aware of the prolonged pollution in Baruwa.
“The current president is aware, so it’s something that can be properly discussed with the owners of the pipeline to change them,” Ajayi said.
“I will escalate this to my bosses, they will in turn escalate it to the FG, and then they will take action from there,” he added.
He said that remediation — the process of mopping up oil — is a sustainable method to tackle hydrocarbon contamination.
“Once you can truncate that cycle, then you can begin to mop upon what is already spilled, that should ensure it doesn’t spread to the entire Lagos. I think that should come up,” he said.
The Project Coordinator of the training, Ore Fika, said conversations and forums like this are important to ensure there is a reduction in ecological and social inequalities. She emphasised the importance of spatial, gender, cultural and housing justice.
“Baruwa became a part of our training as a result of the decades-long contamination the community deals with. We hope this training will equip the agency and its officials with relevant support to rectify the situation,” Fika said.
Ajayi said tackling leaks caused by repeated attacks on oil pipelines that run through the district will require vigilant efforts from the community and security forces to prevent further pipeline vandalism in the area.
This, he said, is one of the major reasons why the pollution has lingered.
An elderly resident who has been leading the fight against water pollution in Baruwa, Pa James Oyewole, said although the visit wouldn’t be the first, he’s hopeful something comes out of it this time around.
“And whether we ask for it or not, we deserve to be compensated,” he added.