Contaminated Water: Total Sending 900 Lagos Pupils To Early Graves, Residents Cry Out

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The Total filling station in Akoka which has contaminated the underground water in the area through its corroded underground storage tank

In the last two years, residents of Akoka community in Lagos have watched helplessly as petrol from a corroded underground tank belonging to Total Petrol station (Total Nigeria Plc) located in the community continues to seep into the underground water in the area making residents who must use the water to get by everyday to tell  stories of sorrow and ailments with the trepidation of death.

This time, at a media interactive session tagged: ‘Total must do right’ it was the 900 pupils who are being exposed to killer chemicals when drinking water from a borehole at Ayetoro Primary School that drew the most fear out of Ms. Enuka Umeike, a resident, who became heartbroken over how future leaders are being exposed to the agents of slow death.

“Is it a crime to send children to school again in Nigeria?” Umeike asked. “It’s really worrisome that about 900 primary school pupils sent to school daily to get education are being killed slowly and government is not coming to their rescue.”

“Government should have shut down the school since to prevent pupils from drinking from the contaminated water,” in the absence of better alternative.

She said sighting the school pupils each time makes her heartsick for the fear of the more toxic chemicals they must have gulped down their stomach for the day and obviously without any knowledge of it.

Akoka Residents In Search of Justice Over Polluted Groundwater By Total

Results from an independent test carried out on water samples taken from several affected areas in Akoka, revealed the percentage of water contamination in relation to DPR (Department  of Petroleum Resources) standard for portable water in Ayetoro primary school to be 69.2%. Samples of tap water taken at 2, Shobande street in the area was even worse. It showed the water contains 105.8% of the chemical contamination.

According to a professor of Anatomy, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Francis Duru, the chemical compounds that make up petrol can damage the bone marrow and cause pneumonia, cancer among other ailments. Duru also noted that the chemicals can disrupt the gene formation of a child.

However, it was gathered that the age of the pupils who have continued to drink from the tap located in the school ranges between 3-month and 12-year old.

Another resident, Mr. Adeyombo Adewale said the independent test became necessary following several obstructions in the past to disclose the authentic test results. He alleged that “Total had been conniving with LASEPA (Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency) to ensure the real test results are not revealed. They’re trying to conceal the results.”

Lamenting over the health damage being done daily to residents, Mrs. Idayat Ogunfemi, chemical expert said: “I have been on cancer prevention/medication in the last two years spending a lot of money because benzene which is one of the major elements in Petrol is carcinogenic.”

“A victim has lost his limbs due to the exposure. Very soon Total will be going into the business of coffins or mortuary so that they can make more money,” she said.

On the pupils’ plight, a traditional ruler of Ilaje community, Bariga, Chief Kayode Ayetiwe, expressed concern over the pupils’ exposure to contaminated water, asked the Lagos state government to come to the community’s aid by making provision for portable drinking water in the affected primary school and also address the crisis stemming from the underground water contamination.

“The situation keeps going bad everyday. Total, which is a multinational oil company and the government are not ready to do anything to resolve it. Indeed this is a genocide on the members of this community,” said Mr. Philip Jakpor, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria.

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'Dotun Akintomide's journalism works intersect business, environment, politics and developmental issues. Among a number of local and international publications, his work has appeared in the New York Times. He's a winner of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Award. Currently, the Online Editor at The New Diplomat, Akintomide has produced reports that uniquely spoke to Nigeria's experience on Climate Change issues. When Akintomide is not writing, volunteering or working on a media project, you can find him seeing beautiful sites like the sandy beaches that bedecked the Lagos coastline.

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