The allusion ‘water everywhere, but no water to drink’ particularly good, drinkable water is a source of worry to the people of oil-rich Eastern Obolo Local Government Area in Akwa Ibom State.
This is as the people drink the salty Ekpitim River and streams abound in most communities following dysfunctional pipe-borne water supply in the area.
When a team of reporters from StraightNews visited the local government area on a fact-finding tour on Thursday, May 20, they discovered that most people in the area were drinking unsafe pond, stream and river.
A resident of Iko Town, Mr. Etim Awaji satirised, “We drink this dirty water with our children every day, but instead of us getting sick, we are healthier than those living in Eket and Uyo drinking treated water.”
At Okoroete, the local government headquarters, Mrs. Iko-Abasi Urujian said the water tap opposite her house which used to supply them water for some months had stopped working.
When asked how she got water for the house chores, she responded, “We fetch water from stream, river. We use rain for cooking and washing while we buy pure water from Eket for drinking.”
She further stated that borehole in the area works only on the day of commissioning but dried up once the ceremony was over.
At Elile, the community of Eastern Obolo Paramount Ruler, Chief Harry Etetor, the story is the same.
One of the residents of this community, Mr. Uzonu Uraun said in Pidgin English “Road them no fit give us, na water them go give us?”
At Iko Town with more them 15 oil wells and three rigs in operation, the story of the residents seems pathetic as their water is polluted due to the activities of the oil companies operating in the area.
Mrs. Helen Ekperikpe, a woman leader in Iko Town, took the team down the memory lane from the time of Shell Petroleum Development Company which started oil exploration in the area in early 70s.
Ekperikpe said from that time to 1995 the company left the area, it is only tale of woes as the boreholes dug had dried up before the company left.
When asked if she knew of the contents of the Memorandum of understanding (MOU) between oil companies operating in the area and the community, she replied, “I could not say because the agreement is between the state government and the representative of the area. Maybe the MOU includes the provision of social amenities such as water.”
The educationist added that the community has no drinking water although there are taps dotted the community died on arrival.
Also speaking, Mr. Ekpe Udoh attributed lack of potable water in the area to lack of electricity use for pumping of water.
He recalled that a contractor rented generating set during inauguration of water project in the community but the generator disappeared after the event.
Udoh narrated that taps in the community used to supply them unsafe water because of the colour and the particles coming out from the taps.
At the council secretariat at Okorette, the team could not see the Chairman of the Local Government Council for interview.
Efforts to speak with officials of Nigeria Petroleum Developing Company, AMIN Oil Company and Totalfina operating in Eastern Obolo were unsuccessful as equipment were more visible than human beings at site.
However, some workers at rig sites directed our team to Port Harcourt, Warri and Lagos, the companies’ operation bases.