Residents of Awoye, a community in the South West coastal region of Nigeria, home to the Ororo-1 oilfield in Ondo State, are appealing to authorities for assistance as a fire, ignited by a spill from the oilfield, continues to degrade the environment and jeopardize their livelihoods,Daily Trust reports.
Awoye, once known for its scenic beauty with golden sunsets mirrored by clear waters, is now engulfed in a fiery blaze that has been burning for the past three years. The ongoing oil spill feeds the flames, creating a hazardous mix of oil films and toxic chemicals that are detrimental to marine life, killing fishes and disrupting natural aeration.
The fire in the Ororo-1 oilfield erupted in May 2020 due to high pressure from its core, with the reservoir pressure reaching 8,000 pound-force per square inch (psi). The oilfield’s location, characterized as high temperature and high pressure, poses risks of thermal reactions with naturally occurring compounds in the earth.
Before the environmental degradation, Awoye was renowned for its cocoa production, attracting fishmongers to buy the day’s catch. However, the once-vibrant community is now marked by the acrid fumes of burning chemicals, replacing the aroma of grilled fish.
Nestled between Ogun and Delta states, Awoye’s southernmost border faces the Atlantic Ocean. Ileaja, with its ocean-soaked shores, once symbolized simpler times. Today, it witnesses the fiery blaze from the Ororo-1 oilfield, and residents allege government neglect.
The plight of the Awoye people is evident, as their once-thriving community is now marred by the unending fire. Fishermen like Temi Ajimisogbe express frustration at the inability to fish in the affected area, leading to a decline in catches. The elderly, like 90-year-old Olayinka Ayene, lament the deterioration of their hometown and call for government intervention.
Chief Happiness Abiye, the community leader, provides insight into the 2020 incident, explaining that a blowout and subsequent inadequate maintenance efforts left the Ororo well burning. The responsibility was shifted between Chevron and Shell, leaving the community in distress.
Industry insiders and environmental advocates criticize the government for neglecting oil spillage issues. The Ororo-1 well inferno is seen as a symbol of a burnt national conscience, reflecting a disregard for the lives of the people and the ecosystem.
Despite the launch of the Nigeria Energy Transition Plan in 2022, aiming for net-zero emissions by 2060, there are calls for increased awareness and a shift from fossil fuels. The voices of Awoye and the larger Niger Delta region play a crucial role in the ongoing debate about the impact of oil exploration and the need for environmental preservation.
Notably, Shell and Chevron deny operating the Ororo-1 oilfield. Chevron clarifies that the field was designated a marginal field and farmed out to third parties in 2004, while Shell defers inquiries to industry regulators.
The Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission attributes the field to Guarantee Petroleum Company Limited and Owena Oil and Gas Limited, with Guarantee serving as the operator. Legal disputes have hindered regulatory actions, and residents emphasize the urgent need for unanimous voices to protect them from further harm.