Akoka residents petition National Assembly over water pollution by Total

The residents of Akoka, a Lagos community, on Saturday presented a petition to the House of Representatives member representing Somolu Federal Constituency, Ademorin Kuye, over the pollution of their underground water by Total Nigeria Plc.

The petition, jointly signed by the appointed representatives of the affected residents and delivered during a press conference, attributed the cause of the pollution to the leakage of the underground tank of a Total Filling Station situated along St. Finbarrs’ College Road in Akoka.

”Our plight was first brought to the attention of the Lagos State government in mid-2017. To date, approximately two years afterwards, it appears our plight is being treated with levity by both the federal and state levels,” the residents stated.

”We are, therefore, constrained to petition the National Assembly through your office as the representative of our constituency at the National Assembly. We trust that through your office the callous handling of the plight of members of your constituency in the regard will be speedily brought to an end.”

Most residents in the affected community have been sourcing water for domestic use from underground wells and boreholes sunk in their premises.

However, around August 2017, some of them began to perceive the smell and taste of petrol from their tap water. Their findings showed that an underground tank from the nearby petrol station had leaked its contents into the soil, contaminating the water.

The affected areas included St. Finbarrs’ College Road, Abdullahi Street, Aiyetoro Street, Oyenuga Street, Wulemotu Ajoke Street, Rickett’s Close, Shobande Street, and Sholanke Street.

”The said station is the only petrol dispensing facility situated in the vicinity of those among us who were and are still experiencing this unfortunate solution,” the petition stated.

”We reported our observations to the station manager, requesting that the station investigate its underground storage tanks for leakage. This report was made several times but, to no avail. They were ignored by the dealer and his staff.

”About that same period, the dealer of the Total Petrol Filling Station in question reported that he had lost an entire 33,000 litres tanker load of PMS overnight. He admitted as much at a meeting convened by the zonal operational controller, Department of Petroleum Resources, Lagos zonal operations in April 2018.

Saturday’s press conference had in attendance some civil society groups including the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria and the Joint Action Front.

Renowned environmentalist, Newton Jibunor, was also in attendance.

At the event, Francis Duru, a professor of Anatomy at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, highlighted the long-term effects of carcinogenic compounds.

”Inside gasoline, we have different types of hydrocarbons including benzene and lead. Scientists have used benzene to induce cancer in laboratory animals,” said Mr Duru, who is also an affected resident.

”If you have lead in your water, cook with it, bathe with it, it is very well known to suppress bone marrow development, so over time, it causes anaemia and other related blood cancers.

”It is unfortunate that we have been shouting for two years and nothing serious have been done.”

A PREMIUM TIMES report last year detailed how the community residents were struggling with the polluted underground water.

Weeks after the report, the Lagos State government announced it was shutting down the petrol station to carry out an Environmental Forensic Audit (EFA).

The residents said the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) conducted the EFA and concluded that the pollution was caused by ”aliphatic hydrocarbons’ that can only come from paints, grease from roadside mechanics, and so on. Total was completely absolved.”

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”We dare to say that the report as presented is bogus, if not malicious,” the residents’ petition stated.

”To date, affected residents still perceive PMS in the water running from their homes. Attention is being moved from the real culprits, with deliberate attempts to point fingers at certain victims within our community.

”Furthermore, we are perplexed that it took LASEPA a whole year to release the supposed report bearing in mind the gravity of the known harmful medical effects likely from heavy exposure to PMS. The Environmental Forensic Audit was delivered to LASEPA in September 2018, but released about a week ago.”

Rasheed Shabi, the LASEPA general manager, did not respond to requests for comments.

The residents said they want to be compensated for all the expenses incurred as a consequence of the pollution, urgent medical evaluation for the affected persons, and avoidable medical expenses likely to to be expended in the future.

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