By Francis Abai, Warri
Sitting in her small patched canoe with stress written all over her face, arising from her daily crossing of passengers for a small fee through paddling (hand pulling) to a nearby island at the Warri Corner, it is not that hard to tell that she and her other counterparts in the risky ferry business were struggling to make ends meet. Yet, in the distance, not too far away from their base of operation, were crude oil reservoirs, signaling a huge disparity of inequality between the timid poor and the influential rich.
Indeed, it is no longer news that the Niger Delta is the paradox of the Nigerian nation — a region that hosts crude oil exploration and production (E&P) activities that earns the Federal Government trillions of dollars from oil export but majority of whose inhabitants are one of the world’s poorest, no thanks to the rampant rate of environmental degradation arising from oil pollution.
And even as the Federal Government is doling out palliatives, in cash and in food aids, to cushion the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic in the north and elsewhere, not a thought is given to the poor Niger Delta creek dwellers that have been struggling with poverty over the years to eke out a daily living in a contaminated coastal environment.
The desire to rescue the Niger Delta creek dwellers from such neglect and poverty by re-writing their stories and presenting their challenges before the global scene through the Internet was what informed the establishment of The Liberator Newspaper, founded by its Publisher and Editor, Amb. Comr. Binebai Yerin Princewill, a native citizen of Burutu, Ekeremor and Warri South West in Delta and Bayelsa states.
And so, moved by the suffering of coastal dwellers, Amb. Comr. Binebai along with his team members from the Liberator, on Monday, May 18, embarked on COVID-19 Sensitization Campaign and the donation of foodstuffs to the vulnerable in the creeks.
This, according to the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, was part of the newspaper’s Corporate Social Responsibility which wax delivered through its social programme tagged, “COVID-19: THE LIBERATOR NEWSPAPER FOOD BANK.”
Varieties of food items were distributed by the publisher and his Liberator team members to the aged in villages within the three local council areas of Burutu, Warri South West and Ughelli South, all in Delta state.
Beneficiaries of the palliatives were full of excitement at the Liberator’s unexpected give away. Some recounted their daily ordeals since the lockdown came into effect and wish more of such kind gesture would come their way to help alleviate their state of suffering.
Knowing well that the coastal area is like a wide ocean without shores, Amb. Comr. Binebai noted that, “Due to the time that we are in, we could not reach out to most of our people on the journey but yet the supports are so encouraging. We decided to target the villages in the creeks because we felt that these are the most disadvantaged people; even without Covid-19 pandemic, these are people struggling.”
Truly, before the outbreak of the coronavirus, it has been a sorry state for the people in the Niger Delta creek. Faced with no portable drinking water, no connection to the national power grid, poor housing, inadequate healthcare and educational infrastructures, etcetera, modern day living has become a huge burden. But on a daily basis, barrels of crude oil are produced to fatten the the treasuries of both the government and oil companies.
Amb. Comr. Binebai, while thanking God for the success of the programme at the day’s end, applauded the efforts of those who supported the initiative.
According to him, “This piece cannot be complete without mentioning all those that embarked on the journey with The Liberator Newspaper. This journey wouldn’t have been possible too without the support of some non governmental organisations (NGOs) and good spirited individuals, such as: The Shedrack Agediga Foundation (SAF), John Dekawei Foundation (JDF), Center For Peace and Environmental Justice (CEPEJ), Sir Clement Ebi, Madam Ebiere Ganagana, Hon Dr. Braduce Amakazi Angozi, Chief (Hon.) Ebikeme Clark, Rt. Hon. Joseph Asiaye Alubeze, Barr. Sarah Smooth, Sir Tare Pondi (Debia) as well as others.”
While many others have put up such spirited efforts taken by the Liberator, one thing is certain and which is, it is time that both the Federal and State Government put in place long lasting solutions that would bring to the barest minimum the acute spate of poverty in the creeks. While the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) had placed Delta State as the second state with the least poverty rate, it is very certain the body did so without having any knowledge of what life in the creek is all about, which places such pronouncement as an error in itself!
Photo Credit To The Liberator Newspaper