Underground water pollution: Akoka community in Lagos petitions National Assembly

Residents   of Bariga in the Akoka area of Lagos State have petitioned the National Assembly over the failure of relevant agencies to intervene in the case of water pollution occasioned by activites of a Total filing station in the area.

Receiving the petition on Saturday, August 9, in Lagos, the vice chairman, Rules and Business Committee, Shomolu Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Mr Ademorin Kuye, commended the community for not taking the law into their own hands, adding that the water contamination caused by a damaged underground tank of the Total filing station is a disaster waiting to happen.

“l want to thank the residents of Akoka for handling the dangerous matter in a civilised manner. I want to assure you that we will not fold our arms and allow it to happen,” he said.

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The petition reads in part, “We are residents of Akoka community and victims of soil and underground water pollution resulting from the Underground Storage Tank (UST) leakage at Total Fuel Station located at St. Finbarr’s College Road, Akoka, Lagos.

“It has been an arduous task for us to obtain the reasonable government protection we ordinarily ought to enjoy as citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and of Lagos State in particular.

“Our plight was brought to the attention of the state government two years ago. Till date, it seems our plight is being treated with levity by the two tiers of government. We are therefore constrained to petition the National Assembly through your office as the representative of our constituency.

“We trust that through your office, the callous handling of the plight of members of your constituency in this regard will be speedily brought to an end.”

Speaking on the effects of PMS exposure on water, Professor of Anatomy, Lagos State Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Professor Francis Duru, who is also a resident of Akoka, noted that it was disheartening that the community was sitting on a time bomb.

He said the presence of fuel in the water can lead to all manner of cancers as well as ovary, kidney, liver and bone marrow infections.

He further lamented that it was unfortunate that the issue was not getting the attention it deserved.

Similarly, Mrs Eniola Akintunde, a founder of Niola Cancer Care Foundation, recounted that her husband died of cancer owing to toxins, saying that Nigerian leaders don’t listen as the country has become a dumping ground for toxins.

According to her, the long-term effect of water pollution resulting from the presence of fuel in the water the residents consume can only be imagined since cancer is a gradual thing.

She therefore called on the government to, as a matter of urgency,  come to the rescue of Akoka community.

Sharing his experience, Mr Bamidele Odukoya, a resident of Akoka, alleged that the problem was that the underground tank which Total Fuel Station uses to store its fuel was leaking and instead of replacing it, the station had been patching it.

He further stated that many residents were suffering from one ailment or the other and doctors had  traced it to the water they consume.

According to him, they have been advised to stop drinking the water, but the cost of buying water and medical treatment is having a toll on them.

Another resident, Mrs Adetutu Bimutu, alleged that some individuals have been compromised, which is why the franchisee of Total filing station in Akoka is having a field day.

According to her, the water is so polluted that the odour is terrible and many residents keep falling sick by the day in spite of getting commitment from government agencies like the Lagos State Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), among others.

A member of the Environmental Right Action (ERA), Mr Philip Jakpor, averred that it was sad that the people’s environment had been violated and it was the people themselves that were championing this cause instead of the government.

“Residents of Akoka have been suffering for years, but they have come today to cry out; and we as civil rights movement group are with them. The company is frustrating their efforts from getting justice and that is why we are aligned with them and something has to be done immediately,” he added.

It will be recalled that the residents of Akoka have continued to raise the alarm on this issue over time, but are yet to get respite. According to them, initially the Total filing station took responsibility for the oil spillage which was why itprovided water tanks ab initio, but after a while, it abandoned them.