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Help! Toxic Waste Killing Our People, Livestock •Rido Residents In Kaduna Allege Threat To Community
A clean environment is essential for healthy living and that is why environmental activists have not relented in their effort towards sensitising the public and authorities on environmental issues. HASSAN IBRAHIM writes on life in Rido community of Chikum Local Government Area of Kaduna State and how the people, who live very close to the Kaduna Refinery, are coping with environmental challenges.
In the present world, everything seems to be commercialised apart from the air we breathe and other essentials of life that form part of the environment. However, even the environment is not left alone, as some groups or individuals, due to personal reasons or otherwise, continue to engage in acts that are not conducive to the environment.
It is recalled that years ago, drums of toxic waste from far away Italy were shipped into Nigeria which caused a diplomatic row between the two countries. Mr. Sunday Nana, who died thereafter, was offered some money for the waste to be kept at his compound in Koko Island. It was 8,000 drums containing 3,500 tones of deadly chemical substances.
Although the Nigerian authorities later forced the Italians to evacuate the toxic waste and filled the excavated site with uncontaminated soil, Sunday Nana could not live long to tell the story, as he died from the side effects of the waste which contained highly lethal radioactive properties. Only God knows how many other innocent people in the locality later became victims of that rape on the environment.
Similarly in Kaduna State, recently, Rido community, which is very close to the Kaduna Refining and Petrochemical Company (KRPC), was enmeshed in a controversy, following reports that industrial waste from the refinery was mistakenly dumped on farmlands in the area. Although the refinery officials tried to explain that the waste was not poisonous, many members of the community claimed that the waste dumped in the area had affected their children, animals and birds.
The community, on a visit by Environment, was discovered to have two chiefs. While one of the chiefs,, a staff member of the refinery, said the waste was not poisonous and no one was affected, another chief confirmed the death of a child with several others who fell sick after inhaling the substance produced when the waste was burnt.
He said the development made them to call the attention of the management of KRPC after which their officials visited and inspected the area. It was confirmed that a lot of birds died in a poultry close to the dump site, but the reason could not be immediately ascertained.
Apart from the controversial dump, the visit to Rido community revealed that the inhabitants were constantly at the mercy of the refinery flare, which burns on a daily basis, once production is on. The flare, believed to have its chemical complications, could be gradually putting lives on the line.
However, residents, especially youths in the area,alleged social neglect on the part of the refinery and urged it to live up to its corporate social responsibility.
This might have been why a Kaduna-based non-governmental organisation, Kaduna Integrity Groups, led by Alhaji Abdullahi Ladan, is championing the cause of the Rido people and had collected over 400 signatures from the community members who expressed displeasure in their relationship with the KRPC.
According to the NGO, the community had only one functional borehole which is insufficient for their water need.
“We are aware of funds provided for social services to the Rido community, but for the past two and half decades, Rido community has been impoverished without anything to survive with, neglected and alienated. No infrastructure; no equipped health centres; no enough or potable water, no electricity and no educational institutions,” the NGO said.
Some residents of the community, who spoke with Environment on condition of anonymity, said they made efforts to get the company to assist them in fixing social amenities which were lacking, but to no avail. Many said they had completed various educational programmes, but could not get employment in the company.
”Imagine, we have no good road, no hospital, no potable water; in fact, there have been no electricity for the past one year and eight months, yet we claim to be hosting an oil company,” a youth said.
Another resident, who would not want his name mentioned, explained that that was not the first time the company was dumping waste in the community and that the recent one claimed the lives of about three of their children who went to fetch firewood and in the process, inhaled the substance. He said some of the affected people were admitted in private hospitals for weeks.
Recently, while on a visit to the site where the industrial waste was deposited, a team of workers wearing nose guards led by a staffer of the Department of Fire, Safety and Environment (FSE) of KRPC, was seen evacuating the waste on the orders of the state Commissioner of Environment and the Kaduna Environmental Protection Agency (KEPA) who took exception to the dumping of the waste in the community because, according to them, there is a designated dump site where the company dumps its industrial waste.
Later, another set of medical team from the KRPC was also seen collecting samples of the substance for analysis and one of the workers, who was among those to evacuate the substance, said they had to be given tins of milk to take anytime they had to evacuate the said substance from the factory because it could be harmful.
Already, the Kaduna State House of Assembly had commenced investigations into the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the community, sequel to a motion raised by Mr. Maikudi Tanko, the member representing the constituency in the state House of Assembly.
The motion was co-sponsored by nine other members. Tanko (PDP-Chikun) told his colleagues that the sponsors of the motion were worried by the reported dumping of industrial materials believed to be toxic in nature and resulting in “severe threat to lives and livelihood of the inhabitants of the Rido community.”
He explained that the waste was dumped by KRPC through a contractor and urged for a thorough probe of the development that had claimed several lives and destroyed sources of living of residents, including livestock and environmental degradation.
Commenting on the motion, Mr Bityong Nkom, representing Kaura Constituency, endorsed the motion and said he was residing opposite the toxic waste dump site while appealing to his colleagues to investigate the development.
Nkom said that the probe should be aimed at stopping the dumping of toxic wastes in the area in order to prevent further loss of lives and sources of livelihood.
It is a matter which should be of concern to all because majority of inhabitants in the area are farmers and rely heavily on the land and a clean environment to enjoy a bumper harvest. If the environment is allowed to be polluted continuously, the long-term effect of such a catastrophic action would be damaging to the ecosystem as well as generations yet unborn.
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