By Ugochukwu Chimeziri
Mr. Kunniy Alex, Ajido community leader, Mr. Sikiru Aliyu, youth leader and Mrs. Felicia Adosu of Ajido community all of Badagry Local Government Area of Lagos state have lamented that memories of environmental depletion and devastation of Niger Delta have moved to their community which is hosting the pipeline and the transfer station of the West African Gas Pipeline.
Speaking to the media in an interactive meeting held in Lagos in the week end, Alex said that women in his community who are traditionally known for mat and other artifats making from raffia products have been displaced as the use of certain chemicals by the contractors of the pipeline project in the community has affected the raffia plantation in the community.
“What we have now are raffia trees that are dwarfed and reasonably not long enough for the women to use in their mat making. We have noticed over these few years the contractors worked with the use of protective chemicals for their pipes that our raffia trees are no longer growing to the normal heights thereby rendering these women out of business,” he said.
Supporting the position, Aliyu, the youth leader said that they were promised of jobs for the youth but over the years they contractors have actually imported labour into Ajido community to work in the pipeline sites leaving most of the youths jobless. “An effort we made to stage a peaceful protest that we need to be accommodated was met with Chevron mobilizing the Nigerian Police Force against the youths. Some of us were detained while other were severely beating, an experience we hear of in the Niger Delta,” he said.
According to Alex, Ajido community which is a fishing community is gradually leaving the profession following recent rampant cases of pollution in the rivers and water bodies in the community.
“We had a pollution which brought about sludge on fishing gears. I was the Community Liaison Officer then. I insisted that the fishing gears be replaced. After the gears were replaced they instigated the people against me and I was removed so that they will not have opposition again. Since then it has been divide and rule system in Ajido and other communities that are hosting their pipelines,” Alex said.
The meeting which was facilitated by the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) also revealed that the communities where not involved when Chevron produced an armchair Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on the project. Also it was revealed at the meeting that when the Memorandum of Understanding between the affected communities and the transnational companies signed non of the communities’ representatives were educated on the implications of the document they signed.
This has led to Ajido community hosting the project with all the hazards that go with it without any form of adequate compensation.
Meanwhile, Mrs Betty Abah, ERA/FoEN contact person on gender has said that her observation was that in all the agreements between the host communities and the WAPCo, the women have been conspicuously left out and so there was no plan from the beginning to have women as part of the entire process.
“We do not have functional health centre, we do not have roads, we do not have portable water and yet these were all the promises the transitional contractors gave us including 100 per cent employment for our youths,” Aliyu added.
In the meantime, the West African Pipeline Company (WAPCo) which is billed to take over the management of the project has published in its website under what it called WAPCo’s Community Relations policy that it aimed establishing proactive partnerships that will foster healthy, long term relationship with host communities.
According to the Ghana based WAPCo, its objectives for this partnership cover cultivation and sustaining, trusting and harmonious relationships as well as mutually beneficial social partnership with local communities.
“To foster good neighbourliness and ensure community goodwill and support for successful project implementation and operations. To maintain open, honest and constructive dialogue with all Stakeholder Groups and facilitate actions to manage their legitimate concerns and issues. To implement a sustainable Community Development Programme that will have positive impact on the living standards of people in the project affected communities.”
WAPCo also said that in partnership with host communities, through a Participatory Needs Assessment study, has identified “high impact” programmes that address basic needs and economic development in these communities.
The West African Gas Pipeline Company limited (WAPCo) is a limited liability company that owns and operates the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP).
The company has its headquarters in Accra, Ghana, with an office in Badagry, Nigeria, and field offices in Cotonou - Benin, Lome - Togo, Tema and Takoradi, both in Ghana.
WAPCo is a joint venture between public and private sector companies from Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Ghana.
The company said that it's main mandate was to transport natural gas from Nigeria to customers in Benin, Togo and Ghana in a safe, responsible and reliable manner, at prices competitive with other fuel alternatives.
WAPCo is owned by Chevron West African Gas Pipeline Ltd (36.7%); Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (25%); Shell Overseas Holdings Limited (18%); and Takoradi Power Company Limited (16.3%), Societe Togolaise de Gaz (2%) and Societe BenGaz S.A. (2%).
The West African Gas Pipeline Authority based in Abuja is the regulatory body for WAPCo.