Indigenes of Egbeleku in Okpe Local Government Area of Delta State, have raised an alarm over the dumping of foul smelling substances suspected to be toxic waste by an unidentified company into swamp pits in the area.
They alleged that the dumping was permitted by the leadership of the community after they collected a bribe of N5.5 million from the firm.
With the matter snowballing into a full brown crisis, SaharaReporters reliably learned that community members have been threatened with death should they show strangers the dumping site or involve the media in the issue.
Confiding in our correspondent during an undercover visit to one of the multiple dump sites in the company of a non-indigene who resides in the area, one of the indigenes said the dumping began last month and that nobody was allowed to go near the site, which is off the yet-to-be-tarred Eku Road.
The indigene, who identified himself simply as Ujawei, added that already some persons in the community are currently facing serious threats and harassment for daring to challenge the shady deal.
"Our lives, both non-indigenes and indigenes, [are] seriously in danger following the dumping of the dangerous substances in the community. Some leaders and few persons in the community were compromised and these persons are those threatening the people against the exposure of the whole thing. The community leaders have vowed to deal with anyone that will go to the site and disrupt the dumping of the toxic," the non-indigene said.
Various sources in the community expressed concern about the consequences of the dumping, with many deciding to remain mute so as not to attract wrath of the community leadership.
"Some of us the indigenes have taken our time to secretly visit the site which was dug by earth moving equipment,” one of them said. “We saw the multiple dump sites where an unknown company is dumping some smelling sludge into dugout swamp pits along the yet to be tarred Eku Road in Egbeleku community. We are using this opportunity to call on all relevant authorities especially the local government council chairman, Delta State Ministry of Environment and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to come to our aid before it is too late."
Also speaking under condition of anonymity, a visibly worried middle-aged woman, gave the names of some of the community leaders who allegedly received the N5.5 million bribe to include, Mr. Alex Ayeya, Chairman of the community; Mr. Luke Ezeighu, Secretary; Mr. Vote Oghojafor and Mr. OnlyGod Usiakponebro.
In her words, "A firm came to the community and settled the chairman, his secretary and other leaders some weeks back [who] gave express permission to the firm to begin the dumping of this smelling brownish waste believed to be toxic into some pits dug by the firm with caterpillars. Because of the threat and fear, we refused to question the secret way and manner with which they control movement of the unknown product into the community.”
She noted that in order to ensure the deal was not exposed, some individuals in the community are being monitored by youths hired by the leadership of the community.
“We have also come to discovered that the community leaders shared some money to some indigenes considered to be strong voices in the community to shut their mouths, and warned others persons who declined the offer. These are the set of people the leadership is monitoring now," the woman stated.
Our correspondent further gathered that, that the issue was reported to the Okpe council environmental department to intervene because of the health dangers it constitutes but that no action was taken.
A female staff at the Okpe council environmental department who pleaded for anonymity confirmed to SaharaReporters that there were complaints from some persons from the community. Wondering why the matter has yet to be followed up, she lamented that the dumping could pose a serious danger to the health of the people and called on law enforcement, the state government and industry regulators to wade in and investigate the matter, with punishment served to offenders.
When contacted, the chairman of Okpe local government council, Mr. Godwin Ejinyere, and the Delta State commissioner for Environment, Mr. John Nani, denied any knowledge of the dumping of the toxic waste in Egbeleku community, saying nobody has brought any such complaints to them.
The two government officials however promised to immediately send their officials to the site to see things for themselves.