Nigeria has promised to end gas flaring by 2030 under its national climate plan but communities are sceptical, given previous unmet deadlines
She ran her hand over the rough patches on the walls of her house, leaving a pattern of dirt, the tell-tale sign of decades of gas flaring that communities in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta have endured.
Ekaette Robert, who lives in Esit Eket, an oil-rich community in Nigeria’s southern Akwa-Ibom state, has endured great hardships with unbroken optimism in recent years. Over the past seven years, she has experienced the death of her husband, struggled to provide for her five children and now, her livelihood is in danger.
After her husband’s death, Robert started farming cassava to make a living. She rarely makes a profit. Gas flaring – burning off methane as an unwanted byproduct of oil extraction – increases soil temperature, causing a decline in crop yields for Robert and other farmers.
“The yield is very discouraging and it is getting worse by the day. My cassava stems withered and despite applying fertilisers, the problem still persists,” she told Climate Home News. She can only afford to send two of her children to school.
In the nearby village of Ibeno, residents suffer from dwindling fish stocks and excessive heat.
“Rainwater visibly changes colour and is not consumable. We only manage to use it to wash and maybe bathe,” said Daniel Afia, Ibeno’s village head, who retired from the fishing business after a long period of unprofitable endeavours.
Esit Eket and Ibeno are oil producing communities that have endured squalid living conditions, rising poverty levels and loss of livelihood since Frontiers Oil and ExxonMobil started operating therein in 2003 and 1974 respectively.
In the Niger Delta, gas flaring is killing crops, polluting water and damaging human health. The government has promised to end flaring by 2030 under its national climate plan, but communities remain sceptical, given previous failed attempts, a lack of enforcement and necessary technology.
Okon Ekpobia, the village head of Idung Akpeudo, in Esit Eket, farms yam and other crops but is often left frustrated with the harvest.
“Crops don’t do well since oil exploration started in this community,” he said. “Both the quality and the yield is nothing to write home about. I can’t sell my products and make a decent profit from it.”
Farmer Victor Isong expressed worries over the rising heat, which is affecting his family’s health.
“It does not matter whether it is plants, animals or human beings, everything in our environment is suffering,” Isong said. “My wife and children often come down with heatstroke.”
“At the moment, I have a cough and it is common knowledge that it is caused by the polluted water we drink and the gas flare,” he said.