A gold mine buried underneath with potentials that offer great prosperity for all, yet a plague in disguise threatening the way of life. A journey to River State, the southern part of Nigeria, soon had me discovering that all that glitters is not gold; a city ripe with various promising industries such as bakery, poultry, fishing as the order of the day and agricultural activities, Goi in Gokana local government area of Rivers State, was a land that inhabited the pride and prosperity of her people and the nation at large, as a result of crude oil in the land.
Goians were blessed for discovering wealth hidden beneath the earth and lived happy but little did they know that this blessing was better left in the ground for in the year 1991, the city of Goi experienced the devastating hand of their blessing as it became a city destroyed through a river of oil, the result of the cruelty of man.
The people of Goi where forced to leave their land by the high and mighty with no insurance, no promise for a better place, no provision or compensation as they journeyed on self-exile. A land once rich with natural resources now contaminated and a threat to its own as the oil washed away everything good. A son who once dreamt of his rich future because his father was a wealthy man and owned the biggest of everything in the land had that dream washed off by the oil spill and today, all he has is his title as ‘’high chief’’, and a bitter story.
A story of pain, sorrow and total contamination of 30ft beneath the earth, and all a government who once danced in the wealth of this community could offer was an ultimatum to leave or die with nowhere to go, no food, no water, no compensation whatsoever; some chose death because all they had was Goi. After this disastrous spillage which happened couple of years ago, the result is laid bare for all to see, despite attempts to hide it. Till today nobody seems to be bothered about the suffering of the Goi people and those who remain in Goi await death, as they stay with the contamination in their city.
In 2005, people vacated Goi and it not only lost its people, but also its tradition. Farming and fishing were forgotten as the rivers became more difficult to access; aquatic life washed to the high sea. The residue of the oil spill cover vast lands, leaving nothing. Although most of the rivers are drying up, reports have shown that it will take 30years to restore normalcy but even that leaves no hope for the present generation, and the ones coming have no hope because nothing is being done to start the clean-up. No one knows how much more will be lost before something is done or if the city of Goi will be submerged in ruins and be forgotten.
Gokana is fast losing her children. Bode community just like Goi, is also losing its pride, as even the people here go to neighbouring towns to farm. Some have fled to Cameroun to make ends meet. The rivers, the land, all is contaminated. The people have condemned themselves to the inevitable. Death has become the order of the day; expecting mothers lose their children before birth. The mortality rate is pegged at 41%. It gets worse: in a week, nothing less than six people die. Although the people of Goi are aware of the consequences of remaining in their community, they have no other place or the means to survive elsewhere, so they hold on to a lost heritage, one that will only be stories to generations to come.
Just when you think, this is it, you’ve heard all, you hear about the community of Ogale in Eleme, where all they ask for is clean water to drink and cook with. Rain is a blessing and the sun a curse, because the people depend on rain water to go about their daily lives. Boreholes can be seen in almost every household but there is no water as a result of contaminated earth. A man who spends nothing less than two thousand naira every week to buy water for his family lamented of how he dug his borehole since 2008 but has never pumped clean water, not once. And there are those who can’t afford to buy clean water, who are left with water that smells like crude oil. This is the harsh reality these people live with.