Dangote Refinery (file photo)
- Community laments environmental hazard, exploitation, sexual abuse
‘Most of the ladies from this community that seek jobs are given the condition of sleeping with staff of the refinery before they get job, while the guys are given very menial jobs’
By Bose Adedeji
The floating of Dangote Refinary in Ibeju-Lekki, Eti-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State, has become a curse instead of a blessing for the fishing community.
The plight of the host community, which was first made public in 2022, came up again at the weekend after a study carried out by The Centre for Dignity revealed the highlevel exploitation still going on against the local people.
The report by Lanre Medayedupin of The Centre for Dignity, highlighted the negative impact of the Dangote Refinery on the environment, and the people’s livelihood.
It was also gathered at the weekend that the major cause of the brewing crisis was the health hazards caused by the activities of the company, people’s distrust on the state government and the management of the Dangote Refinary.
Nigeria News Flight gathered that during the negotiations with the refinery management to cede the lands to the company, the community signed agreements that it did not understand. There were also subtle attempts by the state government to force the natives off their ancestral lands.
The natives claimed that influential members of the community, who live in Europe and U.S. stood in for them and ensured the details of the agreements between the government, Dangote and the community were not available for everyone to see.
Most of the community leaders who spoke on anonymity pointed out that the state government was only interested in profits rather than the health and welfare of its citizens.
According to one of the traditional rulers, “representatives of the state were there when the signing of those agreements took place. So also, were the lawyers and managers of the refinery but the lawyer we had brought from Abuja to represent us was told to leave the room.”
He also disclosed that several traditional rulers were invited and made to sign documents they did not understand and then they were paid only N1 million for hundreds of acres of land taken away from them.
The monarch further revealed that fishing activities had been hampered by the construction works on the shoreline of the Atlantic where they fish.
Besides, he lamented that they have already started observing dead fish on the shorelines, an indication that the refinery operations were affecting marine life.
On any assistance from the management of the company to the communities, he said, “We are usually given bag of rice and a litre of groundnut oil at the end of the year. There is also a stipend of N50, 000 monthly given to the Baale of each community and N30,000 to the youths and N30, 000 to women leader in each community. That is all.
“We have the poles but have no electricity in our community. We have not had electricity in the last 16 years but there is 24/4 power in the refinery because they are on Independent Power Plant (IPP). Also, our youths are unemployed. Some of the contractors ask for sex from our daughters before considering them for menial jobs.”
A resident, Abike Adedoye, lamented the activities of the company in Ibeju-Lekki.
Adedoye said: “We are typically fisherfolks in this community. Unfortunately, since the construction work on the refinery started, we have continued to record low fish catch because the fish have swarm to safer waters. Because of this we must go further into the Atlantic Ocean to catch anything. It is getting more dangerous to even do that because our boats cannot withstand the strong wave of the sea.”
Another resident, Omoniyi Akinjola, disclosed that the community was not benefitting from the company.
His words: “There is no benefit of this refinery for us because the available jobs are given to strangers especially people from the Niger Delta and the East. The few of our people are given menial jobs. Most of the ladies from this community that seek jobs are given the condition of sleeping with staff of the refinery before they get the job, while the guys are given very menial jobs. The same practice is on with the other companies in this community.”
James Akinsolu, a resident, revealed the plan of the youths on the issue.
He said, “The youths are mobilizing and planning to stage a protest in the refinery with our lawyer, but the Baales are asking us not to.
“We are suspecting that they have been “settled”. While we feel the need to go on, the influence they wield in the community is so strong that they can make the communities uncomfortable and unsafe for anyone who goes against them; they can get the person arrested because the police patrol here and drive into the communities all the time.”
From the entrance into each of the communities visited, Nigerian News Flight observed the lack of government presence. From the poor state of the roads to absence of drainages and the blaring noise of electric generators, nothing gives an inkling that they are hosts to the multimillion-dollar refinery.
It was learnt that whenever it rained, the roads were totally impassable due to floods.
On the shoreline, heavy oil infrastructure was observed and a perimeter fence, which the community people are forbidden from encroaching upon. It was learnt that the fence and other infrastructure set up to guarantee smooth operation of the refinery have limited access to the sea which the locals rely on for their livelihoods.
It also observed that there was anger in the communities and a foreboding that they would ultimately be removed from their ancestral lands.
Besides, the people called for:
- A halt to ongoing construction and other environmentally unsound activities by the Dangote Refinery that violate the rights of the locals to safe and conducive environment to thrive;
- The Lagos and Federal government should review the existing MoU between the Dangote Refinery management and the Ibeju-Lekki community to ensure it addresses the genuine concerns of the community;
- The Lagos government should ensure the Ibeju-Lekki community is provided basic amenities including electricity, water, and good roads to make life meaningful and enjoyable by the locals. The youths should also be provided meaningful employment;
- The Dangote Refinery should be compelled to make public the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) conducted before construction began on the refinery project;
- The Ibeju-Lekki community should by right be allowed to engage the services of human right lawyersin all their dealings with the Dangote Refinery.
All efforts to talk to the imagemaker of the company, Tony Chiejina, proved abortive, as he did not answer phone calls.
Recall that the Dangote Refinery is adjudged the biggest in Africa and is expected to produce 650, 000 barrels of crude oil per day on completion.
The refinery sits on 6, 180 acres of land and has 4.74 billion litres storage capacity.
Financial analysts say the construction has overshot the initial projection of $12 billion and will instead cost about $19 billion at completion.
When completed, the refinary will likely displace over 500, 000 residents and force them to leave their livelihoods which is mainly fishing.
It is also believed that the project would pollute the environment just like fossil fuels projects in Nigeria’s Niger Delta pollute the region.