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ERA/FOEN decries Shell’s reigniting of flares in Gbarantoru

One of the affected areas in Gbarantoru community.

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has called on the Federal Government to compel Shell to stop the flares in Gbarantoru community in Yenagoa Local Government Area of  Bayelsa State.

ERA/FoEN call came in the wake of a visit to the community by a team from the Yenagoa office led by Programme Manager and Head of the Niger Delta Resource Centre in Bayelsa, Comrade Alagoa Morris, on March 1, 2024.

The visit came after a distress call by members of the community who feared for their lives and environment, due to the flares.

Gbarantoru in Ekpetiama kingdom of Yenagoa LGA is a relatively large community and densely populated.

During the visit, ERA/FoEN monitors observed the gas flare from Shell facility furiously blasting away.

Not only was the horizontally flared gas so huge and menacingly noisy, the threat to buildings in the community was obvious as they continued to vibrate rhythmically. 

A school within the vicinity was forced to shut as a direct result of the impact of the flares.

ERA/FoEN also observed that very high pressure liquid suspected to be water was being sprayed into the air in the direction of the huge flare.

Also read: Shell must pay for environmental crimes in Nigeria – ERA/FoEN

The sprayed water might be technically viewed as reducing heat produced by the flame or have some chemical reaction with the noxious gases so released.

This is left for experts to properly explain.

In an interview with some of the community members, an indigene of Gbarantoru and former Councilor in Yenagoa LGA, Seiyefa Saiyou Jones, expressed his regret at the attitude of disdain and lack of concern for the people displayed by Shell.

He stated that the community had become unbearable to live as the peace, health and safety of the people were under threat due to the vicious gas flaring by Shell.

‘’In the night there is no way to sleep. Due to the noise from the raging gas flare the children cannot sleep in the room anymore. The entire building is vibrating. I am directly affected. Besides the light [from the flare], the vibration of the house is so alarming.

Shell logo | File Image

“This is about the fourth day since they put on the gas flare.  It is so alarming in the night, I can’t sleep; my children can’t sleep.

“We all remain vigilant, awake all through the night….

“This is happening in the heart of the community. They are supposed to relocate those to be affected and compensate them. You can hear the noise. This is even more than the sound of aero plane landing at the airport.

“Due to this gas flare, the primary school was forced to go on vacation. How can they learn under this atmosphere?” he said.

The Ibenanaowei of Ekpetiama kingdom, HRM King Bubaraye Dakolo, Agada 1V, likened the ongoing gas flaring in the community to pumping in toxic and harmful gas into the body system of the people.

According to him, the people of the community may die from the harmful substances that have been released into the air.

 Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Chima Williams, said that Shell’s action prompting victims to cry out is nothing but Eco-Terrorism, as the vegetation, lives and property of victims are under attack by this horizontal emission of noxious gases.

Williams added that the flares negate the principle behind Article 24 of African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right.

He frowned at the Nigerian government for turning a blind eye to the obvious abuse of the rights of the locals to a safe environment to thrive at a time when countries and leaders are initiating better policies to safeguard the health and safety of the environment.

Williams called on the Federal Ministries of Petroleum and Environment to prevail on Shell to stop the ongoing Eco-Terrorism by Shell in Gbarantoru.

He also urged the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment to  bridge the gap with formal complaints to the Federal Authorities concerning the unacceptable.

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