The oil exploration by an indigenous firm, Yinka Folawiyo Petroleum Company may have pitched the firm against the Badagry communities in Lagos State.
The Guardian gathered that the company, which according to its Group Managing Director, Mr. Tunde Folawiyo has invested about $400 million in the last 25 years, is now a major environmental and health concern to the host communities.
The cost of development and its effect has posed serious threat to the depleting ozone layer but worse still is the danger on the life and livelihoods as well as the environment around where gas is flared.
Just as it happened in the Niger Delta region, there are threats to both human habitation and the economic life of the communities, whose major occupations are fishing and farming.
Community like Ajido, which happens to be nearest Kingdom to the exploration field is complaining that it has worsened the environmental impacts and ecological problems.
The Guardian visits to the communities show discontentment among the residents, who complained of the exploration on their means of livelihood and health as well as neglect in the entire process.
They also claimed the environmental impact assessment process for the oil exploration was not in line with the world best practices and one of the requisites for starting such oil exploration and exploitation.
The adverse effect on Ajido and its environs include acid rain, which reduces fertility of the soil as evidenced by the low crop yields, skin irritation and disorder leading to rashes and possibly cancer as well as rise in temperature, which they said has led to stunted growth and withering commercial plants like mat stalks, coconut trees, cassava, maize, decline in coconut productivity and other farm produce.
The same discontentment goes for Gberefu Island and other neighboring communities within the zone.
According to a fisherman at Gberefu Island, Badagry, one of the affected communities, Semako Taseyon, the oil exploration has reduced the quality of fishes because of the light associated with the flying of gas.
Taseyon, a father of four, said making ends meet has become a challenge as a result of the exploration.
His view was collaborated by a 65-year old fisherman at Ajido Community, Mr. Rasaki Agosi, who was forced to withdraw his nets from sea because of fish draught.
Agosi, who lamented that their trauma started two years ago, said they could not even raise N7,000 to buy fuel for the fishing boat and their normal fish depot has gone dry.
He said; “Before now, people from Agbara used to come and buy fish from us because we are one of the largest suppliers in Lagos but that is not the case anymore.
“My son has gone to learn carpentry, when it dawned on us we cannot continue like this. We need urgent intervention in order to take care of our families and needs,” he said.
He claimed that it has driven fishes to 100 meters away making the famous fishing community a shadow of its old self.
Beyond the impact on the fishes, he also claimed that coconut trees are now turning brownish without much heads, thereby reducing production. Apart from that there is also excessive heat.
He urged authorities to do the needful as they have been neglected to avoid the issue of kidnapping and vandalisation of pipelines witnessed in the Niger Delta.
The traditional ruler said they are not only aware of any environmental impact assessment; the fishermen are no longer catching fishes because of the impact of flaring gases at night.
Before, one coconut tree can produce about 300 heads of coconuts, now it has gone down to about 50 heads, while cassava yield, which is another chief crop has also reduced drastically.
Speaking also on the issue, the Akran of Badagry, De Wheno Aholu Menu – Toyi 1, said although the oil is a blessing. The communities have not got much from the oil product in terms of revenue and infrastructure.
Lamenting the level of infrastructural decay in Badagry Kingdom, the Akran said the community was not also involved in the environmental impact assessment study before the commencement of the exploration.
According to him, although the company comes around some time to renovate schools in Badagry, they still need to do more.
In terms of employment, he stressed that none of his wards has so far been employed.
“The oil money is not coming to us in Badagry, they sent it to Lagos. Government and the oil firm should do the needful in order to prevent the Niger Delta debacle,” he added.