The Bayelsa government on Monday pledged to facilitate the clean-up of communities impacted by a recent oil spill in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state.
An oil leak from Seibou Deep facility operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company has been discharging crude into Ogboinbiri River in Bayelsa.
The community has been left to wallow in suffering as they can no longer fish or drink water from the River.
The Bayelsa Commissioner for Environment, Iniruo Wills, had on Tuesday said that the Ministry had swung into action to mitigate further damage to the environment.
The Commissioner also said plans were underway to respond to the challenges faced by the coastal communities.
Mr. Wills explained that Bayelsa Ministry of Environment had summoned officials of the oil firm to a meeting on March 3, 2015.
“We have invited Shell for a meeting on Tuesday to deal with this spill. In the meantime we are asking all parties to do everything necessary to ensure quick containment and clean up.
“The Bayelsa State Government through the Ministry of Environment and other relevant agencies will be taking unmistakable and unprecedented steps that will ensure severe sanctions for oil pollution, whoever may be the culprits,” Mr. Wills said.
But official of Shell stayed away from the meeting convened by the Ministry and asked for a shift in date.
The reasons they asked for the postponement remains hazy.
Residents in Ogboinbiri and neigbouring communities say the oil leak had wreaked the fishing vocation of majority of the people and regretted the poor response of the oil firm.
The residents now drink water sold in sachet resulting in the hike in price of the water. In the past, a sachet of pure water sold for N10 per, now it sells for N30.
John Nikton, a resident in the impacted community, said, most people who relied on the river were compelled to refrain from drinking from the polluted river and so the increased demand for sachet water pushed up the price.
“Before now, the river was a source of fresh water and only the well to do people patronized sachet water, most people fetched drinking water early in the morning but with this oil leak, it is no longer safe to drink the river water.
“Even those who take their bath in the river can no longer do so, some people now stay for days without taking bath while those who can afford it buy bags of sachet water and use it to bath.
“That is even what made the price to go up from N10 to N30 due to the acute water scarcity here, it takes about three hours by boat to reach the state capital and the boat fare is prohibitive.
“And our people are worried because an outbreak of Cholera was reported in this local government in January so we have to be cautious and urge the relevant authorities to step in before another epidemic breaks out,” Mr. Nikton said.
Keme-Ebiama, Apoi, Kokologbene, Gbaruan, Ukubie, Lobia were the worst hit communities.
Several communities along Ogboinbiri River bank have also been impacted with the water current aiding the dispersal of the crude oil.
The Spokesman of SPDC, Joseph Obari, had said that the firm was yet to conduct a Joint Investigation Visit on the spill site adding that the oil firm was yet to issue a statement on the incident.