Residents of Eastern Obolo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State have raised an alarm that more than 200,000 persons are facing imminent water-borne diseases, StraightNews can authoritatively reveal.
Investigations by StraightNews revealed that the communities surrounded by tributaries especially Iko River emptying into Atlantic Ocean have no potable water while the people trek to neighbouring villages which are about 3,000 kilometres to fetch water. Eastern Obolo Local Government Area has 168,364 (based on 2006 National Population Census figure).
It was learnt that their condition get worse during dry season as the young and old in the various communities ride motor cycles or board vehicles to Ikot Akpaden in Mkpat Enin Local Government Area in search of water.
Our reporter who visited the area discovered that there are abandoned boreholes and public taps built in the 70s that are not functioning. In Iko Town alone with a population of more than 9,000 excluding that of Okorombhko, Okoroete, Eliele, Ikonta, Kampa and Okorominyong, among others, there is no portable water.
Narrating their ordeals, some of the residents told our reporter that their communities are in dire need of infrastructure and social amenities as they have been neglected for more than three decades by successive governments. They said if nothing is done more 100,000 persons may be affected by water- borne diseases.
Speaking, Mrs. Mary Eshiet Uko, a native of Iko Town, said: “Water is the main worry of this area. We trek kilometres into the bush to look for water. It is a bit better in the rainy season as we will fetch this acid rain water which the activities of oil companies caused us.
“When we do not see water, we scoop from the ground. We go very far; this suffering is above us- the mothers. We have this water some years back but it dried off. Nobody cares to free us from this situation. If you are one of them come and help us we need water, please.”
Corroborating her ordeal, Mrs. Matheldia Okwor said: “All we have is a very small stream and it is very far from us. It springs up during the rainy season, but from November we buy pure water from Eket at N200 a bag. My husband has no car as you can see. To go to Ikot Akpaden or Eket just to get drinking water is difficult.”
Miss Ahalika Kafaraa, a Senior Secondary 2 student of Community Secondary School, Iko said: ‘’I always go to school late because I have to walk a long distance looking for water. Sometimes if I fetch the water, I have to boil it for a long time. You see, it is difficult getting water here. If there is any succour, I will be happy”.
For little Mercy James, a primary 4 pupil of Blessed Child Nursery and Primary School in the area, “I fetch water from the pond. I freely drink the water from the pond without boiling it.”
Justice Edwin, a youth in the area, explained that there are taps everywhere not only in his community but the taps are dry.
Edwin said: “We are unhappy with the situation. I am made to understand that soil test is not conducted to ascertain whether the water is available before any borehole is drilled.’’
Decrying lack of social amenities in the area, Chief Douglas George, a community leader in Iko Town, recalled that Shell Petroleum Development Company provided the public taps in 1974, being the first oil company to have drilled crude oil in the area, though it did not take long before the taps dried up.
According to him, “the inability of the community not enjoying good clean drinking water is as a result of poor handling of various bore hole projects by the contractors at various times they were sunk.
“The cost implication aside the outbreak of cholera is imminent. Our people have been suffering from the diseases from time to time and is only God that is sustaining them. There was a particular incident a child suffered from cholera and he died on the way to General Hospital, Okoroete for treatment.’”
Also lamenting, the Paramount Ruler-elect of Eastern Obolo, Chief Harry Etettor said ‘’the world is aware that there is no portable water in Eastern Obolo. During dry season, our women dig holes near the river to fetch water which is unhygienic for human consumption. Unfortunately, no one cares about their predicament forgetting that Eastern Obolo is an oil-producing area”.
Ettetor said, “AFREN Oil, Port Harcourt that produced oil in the area had pulled out. At the moment, Amini Oil is producing oil from the area yet no water.”
Efforts to reach the Transition Chairman of Eastern Obolo Local Government Area, Mr Ukomkpa Bernard proved abortive as he did not respond to the numerous calls our reporter put to him Thursday at 10.42, 11.07 and 11.08 a.m.
Commenting on the cause of abandoned dried taps, a water engineer, Engr. Effiong Asang, said ‘’there are many factors that can cause this. It may be because of the topography of the area which make it very difficult to drill water which might have caused the dry tap.”
Engr. Asang described the area as difficult and capital intensive to drill water to a level of getting good drinking water.
Mr. Amos Ufit, the Chief Liaison Officer of Amini Oil, Port Harcourt, the major oil explorer operating in Eastern Obolo, said it was wrong for some to bank hope on the oil company operating in the area to provide portable water for them.
Ufit remarked that Federal Government takes 60 per cent of the total production by oil companies, Niger Delta Development Commission and Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) get proceeds too while the oil company takes 25 per cent of the production proceeds, saying that his company has fulfilled its Corporate Social Responsibility through the provision of various academic and infrastructural facilities to better the lots of the Obolos.