The Lagos state government equally condemned alleged ongoing arrest of innocent residents around Idimu/Ejigbo Local Council Development Areas, LCDA, by Nigeria Civil Defence Corps NCDC, without proper investigation over suspicion that they were responsible for oil pollution of underground wells in the area, saying the residents should be protected rather than being arrested.
It would be recalled that NCDC officials last week allegedly invaded Ejigbo and arrested some residents including a pregnant woman, for alleged NNPC pipelines vandalism.
Commissioner for the Environment, Tunji Bello who spoke weekend, noted that while the state government supported every action of the Federal Government to curb stealing of petroleum products and pipeline vandalism in the nation, it, however, frowned at any act that could constitute an infraction on the rights of residents of the affected areas through wanton and unjust arrests by officials of NSCDC.
According Bello “Lagos State Government expresses serious reservations over indiscriminate arrest of innocent residents around Idimu/Ejigbo areas of the state, without proper investigation over suspicion that they are responsible for oil pollution of underground wells. We recollect that successive administrations in the state has drawn the attention of the Federal Government to concomitant of hazards being experienced by residents of Baruwa-Ipaja, Ilado, Amuwo-Odofin, Ejigbo among others through polluted boreholes, contamination of underground water, ruptured pipelines and seepage of pipelines. Yet, no visible action has regrettably been taken till date by respective agencies of the Federal Government.
Records of official letters
“The state government has records showing that official letters were written by the immediate past Governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu to former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2000. More importantly, the present administration of Mr. Babatunde Fashola, equally wrote a letter to President Goodluck Jonathan and Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke respectively, complaining about serious oil pollution and high level of degradation that residents of these areas are daily exposed to without any meaningful result coming forth.
“The Lagos State Government in these correspondences did not only complain but also suggested to the Federal Government to consider modern methods of protecting oil pipelines across the nation including casing and tamper proof warning devices among other contemporary methods.”
“A case in point is the Diamond Estate where over 137 boreholes/deep wells are affected by the seepage of petroleum products as a result of pipeline vandalism destroying the source of portable water of inhabitants. Two of the estate’s housing units are now seriously affected while their boreholes have turned into oil wells and without any noticeable remedial action from the NNPC.”
Need to conduct integrity test
The commissioner, urged the NNPC to earnestly conduct an integrity test on its numerous pipelines in the state, as well as provide the Lagos State Government with necessary information that would guide the moderation of planned stakeholders to determine how to prevent future re-occurrence.
Legal action against FG/residents’ petition
While reacting to the petition written by residents, the commissioner argued that the arrest of residents, especially in a democracy, could only be meaningful after a thorough investigation necessary to ascertain the degree of neglect by relevant government agencies have been ascertained. “It would be wrong to punish the people for an offence that they were not responsible for.”
However, the arrested residents claimed that, they have complained severally over the years to NNPC about the pollution of their underground water and ruptured pipelines without any action been taken. They were however taken aback when men of Nigerian Civil Defence Corps invaded their premises and arrested them.
As a matter of fact, one of the arrested residents claimed that, officials of NNPC promised to come over to their residence on Monday before they were arrested over the weekend, by men of Nigerian Civil Defence Corps.
Bello, therefore urged, Community Development Associations CDAs and leaders in the affected communities to institute legal actions against the Federal Government over the exposure of their communities to danger arising from neglect of NNPC to perform its statutory responsibility.
Information from Olasunkanmi Akoni, Vanguard was used in this report.