In oil-rich Niger Delta, coastal erosion frustrates locals endlessly | Features

Yenagoa, Nigeria – On a sweltering Friday afternoon final April, Kenneth Omokahire sat near 4 neighbours exterior his home within the Anibeze group within the southernmost Nigerian state of Bayelsa, lamenting to the boys about coastal erosion within the city.

“What else can we do?” requested 65-year-old Omokahire, whose former home was fully submerged nearly 4 a long time in the past. “This drawback isn’t what we are able to remedy as a group. We now have [sought] for presidency’s assist a number of occasions, however nothing has been accomplished to save lots of the group from the issue.”

On July 4, 1985, the four-bedroom condo the place Omokahire and his household used to reside was washed away into the river. Now, they hire a smaller condo in a close-by constructing with a leaky roof.

In Nigeria, coastal areas, which prolong 853km by way of seven southern states bordering the Atlantic Ocean, are recurrently affected by erosion, the lack of land brought on by the elimination of protecting bedrock from the shoreline.

And the price of this environmental phenomenon is big.

In 2018 alone, the overall price of abrasion in Nigeria’s states of Cross River, Delta and Lagos was estimated at $1.9bn or 1.6 % of their mixed gross home product (GDP), in line with the World Financial institution.

Globally, the rise of sea ranges attributable to local weather change is rising the danger of coastal erosion. In keeping with a 2018 evaluation by the USA Nationwide Aeronautics and House Administration (NASA), sea ranges might rise to 65cm (26 inches) by 2100, which might trigger enormous injury to coastal cities.

These are the outcomes of human-induced actions, pure atmosphere adjustments and local weather change, mentioned Taiwo Ogunwumi, an environmental danger researcher on the United Nations College Institute for Setting and Human Safety in Bonn, Germany.

‘All in useless’

In Bayelsa, one in every of six states within the oil-rich Niger Delta area of Africa’s largest oil producer, lots of the individuals reside in abject poverty regardless of years of oil exploration – and face environmental degradation, too.

The state is 90 % water and has the longest shoreline within the area, so residents usually face the results of human, but in addition pure, exercise.

Some communities are located on lands which might be on common solely 25m above sea stage, so buildings recurrently collapse throughout the state.

“In Obogoro [community], the river is now accommodating extra water and the power through which the present is shifting has elevated so it’s consuming deep into the group,” Charles Oyibo, an environmental scientist and lecturer on the Niger Delta College on Wilberforce Island, instructed Al Jazeera.

“Then Anibeze group is domiciled on the culvert facet of the riverbank, so naturally you count on issues like this [coastal erosion] to occur,” he mentioned. “So the risk is actual and it has been there for many years.”

In Obogoro, the individuals, predominantly farmers, say they’ve misplaced about 60 % of their homeland to coastal erosion. One among them, Somkieni Kpekpere, has misplaced two homes.

“I really feel so unhappy as a result of these [two] homes have been constructed to assist me bear in mind my exhausting work,” the daddy of three mentioned.

Even the place the place he now stays along with his household has developed cracks and he’s anxious a few repeat scenario, particularly as the home is close to a river.

In Anibeze subsequent to Obogoro, there isn’t a longer energy provide as one of many electrical poles there was washed away. A number of homes and the group’s first main faculty have met the identical destiny.

Till his commencement from that college in 1970, Omokahire walked each day to lessons. However the influence of coastal erosion is forcing his youngsters and their friends to go the additional mile by actually strolling to highschool in neighbouring communities.

“In 2012, we calculated 250 buildings that have been eroded,” 46-year-old Fortunate Opuana, chairman of Anibeze’s group growth committee, instructed Al Jazeera. “We now have written letters to [both] state and federal authorities however all in useless. So, we enchantment to the federal government and the entire world to assist us earlier than we lose all the group.”

As of late, the locals in each communities and elsewhere are piling strain on the federal government to deal with the scenario and mitigate additional influence on their lives and the ecosystem.

In 2020, a “Save Obogoro Group” marketing campaign was launched to advocate for long-term options to coastal erosion.

Members of the Anibeze group mentioned they incessantly use native media to hunt authorities intervention. Opuana mentioned environmentalists have additionally been invited from exterior the group to tour the affected locations and advocate for options to the issue of coastal erosion.

Their efforts up to now have amounted to nothing, he mentioned, however they’ve resolved to proceed to strive till the federal government responds.

A view of a mud house in a Niger Delta community
A shelf containing electronics gadgets, together with two televisions, is seen inside a mud home in Ikarama village on the outskirts of the Bayelsa state capital, Yenagoa, in Nigeria’s delta area [File: Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters]

An deserted venture

Consultants say that as deforestation depletes the thick rainforests throughout the Niger Delta and causes the recession of the shoreline, extra communities within the space will probably be uncovered to coastal erosion. Pressing actions together with sand filling and shoreline safety are wanted, they are saying.

“One of many main options to deal with the problem of coastal erosion in Niger Delta is thru mangrove restoration, which entails the planting of bushes alongside the coastlines,” Ogunwumi mentioned, including that “mangrove restoration will function a buffer in opposition to excessive climate occasions [like] flooding [and] within the stabilisation of the shoreline.”

To do that requires help from emergency establishments and authorities prioritisation as a result of “a authorities that may borrow tens of millions of naira to purchase automobiles can equally borrow cash for growth functions,” mentioned Oyibo.

However that hasn’t come but.

“The problem of coastal erosion has not been addressed by any administration because the creation of Bayelsa state [in 1996],” Alagoa Morris, a Yenagoa-based venture officer with Environmental Rights Motion/ Pals of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), mentioned. “There are a number of communities that want shoreline safety, however contracts haven’t been awarded by the state authorities.”

Morris claims his organisation made suggestions in 2018 to the federal government to ascertain a flood and erosion fee and collaborate with growth companions each in Nigeria and overseas.

“However nothing [came of it],” he mentioned. “Fairly, when it occurs to any group and also you speak, a sitting governor will let you know my group can also be going through the identical drawback.”

The Niger Delta Growth Fee (NDDC) additionally reportedly awarded contracts for sand filling and shoreline safety in some communities, however the contractors deserted the venture.

Residents say NDDC, a authorities company arrange in 2000 to facilitate the event of the Niger Delta, has an extended historical past of awarding multimillion-dollar contracts for tasks however not finishing them. Even the state authorities alleges that Bayelsa has the best variety of deserted NDDC tasks.

Whereas they wait for presidency intervention, persons are relocating to different areas, particularly in neighbouring Delta state for security.

However relocation is a luxurious not everybody can afford. “We’re at risk [especially] as we strategy the wet season,” Omokahire mentioned. “For me, my home is near the river and I concern the home will probably be affected. However I don’t have some other place to go.”