As the Dangote Industries Limited consolidates what civil rights advocates describe as ‘corporate capture’ of communities in Ibeju-Lekki area of Lagos State, life will never remain the same again for the over 4.3 million residents of the 15 communities, who were mainly farmers and fishermen before the coming of Dangote Fertilizer and the Lekki Deep Sea Port, which have commenced operations and the $23 billion (as of last estimates) Dangote Petrochemicals and Refinery ready to commence operations soon.
Findings from a visit to the Lekuru Community on June 30, 2023, with a reporter from an international medium (which had indicated interest in the activities of Dangote Industries Limited, especially of its fertilizer plants and refinery as they relate to environmental challenges, climate change and impact on the locals), revealed the inhuman and devastating conditions in which residents of the affected communities live.
Their living conditions are exacerbated by flooding, oil droppings into the sea by Pinnacle Oil, dilapidated makeshift dwelling places made from woods and roofs from raffia fronds, as well as lack of potable water, electricity, healthcare facilities and access roads.
A youth coordinator in the community, Wasiu Olapade, who confirmed that most of the residents were relocating from the area, lamented that the only development the community had witnessed was the abundant flood water, lack of basic amenities like electricity, pipe-borne water, access roads, schools and hospital, among others things that promoters of Dangote Industries and the other companies jostling for a sizable share of the juicy Lekki Free Zone, promised the residents when they were being displaced and relocated to a nearby settlement in 2012.
“They promised to pay compensations to displaced residents of between N5 million and N10 million in 2013 depending on the type of house, but when we went to Alausa on the invitation of the Lagos State Government under former Governor Babatunde Fashola, we were given N20,000 or N30,000 in envelopes. The then-governor advised us to take whatever was given to us, saying that was what the government could afford.
“The situation is so bad that most of the people, who could not afford to build decent houses or make alternative arrangements for accommodation within the community had to relocate from the area (as shown by the dilapidated and abandoned makeshift structures).
“The situation is worsened by activities of Dangote Fertilizer and Pinnacle Oil Company, which empty their wastes and pollute the water with petroleum products during discharge from their terminal. As a result, we can no longer find fish near our shores as we used to do because a greater species of the fishes have receded farther into the sea,” he narrated.
He also alleged that security operatives protecting the facilities of the companies usually intimidate fishermen, who venture deeper into the sea in search of a better catch with their gunboats adding: “They even threaten fishermen with their guns and seize the little fuel they manage to ply their boats. They even threaten us with arrest with the alibi that we stole petrol from their facilities if we fail to release our fuel.”
Olapade expressed concern that if the intimidation and threat have reached current levels with the commencement of Dangote Fertilizer and the Lekki Deep SeaPort, there is every possibility that the situation will get worse when the Dangote Refinery commences operations. He called on the management of Dangote Industries, Lagos State Government and the Federal Government to intervene and save the community and others around the Ibeju-Lekki area from total extinction.
But as things stand, the government seemed resolved to consolidate its hold on the Ibeju-Lekki communities, with a view to actualising its ‘complete corporate capture’ with the presence of the Lekki Free Zone, Dangote Fertilizer, the Lekki Deep Seaport and the much anticipated Dangote Petrochemicals and Refinery. As such, the communities have to make up their minds to either ‘fight for their rights or flee!’
Threat of Displacement
The threat of displacement of communities around Ibeju-Lekki was more revealing during a second visit to Imagbon-Segun, Okeyanta, Okesegun, Idasho and other settlements on July 5, 2023. A very glaring sign of the displacement of residents is the commencement of perimeter fencing around the Lekki Deep Sea Port end of the ocean. Residents interrogated confirmed that security operatives of the Deep SeaPort, which has receiving berthing ships in its quay, do not allow community members 500 meters close to the facility. Even fishermen among them are completely barred from getting close to the port, even as they are threatened at sea by security operatives, who ply their gunboats on the waters.
“We don’t even get close to the fence. They carry on as if we are at war with them. The situation betrays the fact that promoters of the Deep Sea Port and Dangote Refinery have resolved to completely conquer the communities to protect their business interests. They do not care at all about international best practices. They have been very unfriendly, unnecessarily aggressive, in spite of the gross neglect and parlous state of the host communities,” a resident, who identified himself as ‘Segun, said.
Loss of Livelihoods
A major concern is the rate at which the residents have been made to lose their sources of livelihood. Being communities of mostly farmers and fishers, the coming of the ‘corporate captors’ has left residents bereft of their ways and means of survival. Species of common fishes have disappeared, while crayfish and prawns that used to be available in large quantities have virtually vanished from the waters.
“We used to harvest so much fish that we take the rest to Epe after satisfying our needs, but that is more since the coming of the industries to our communities. To find any kind of fish, the daring and courageous fishermen among us now have to go deeper into the sea. That endeavour has its own challenges and consequences on the health and safety of our kinsmen.
“Besides, we used to realize between N100,000 and N120,000 daily from the sale of fish, but now we can hardly make up to N20,000 or N30,000 from fish business because we no longer catch as much as we used to do.
“Our communities also used to boast of a sizable amount of coconuts, cassava, maize and other agricultural produce, all of which have disappeared. Most of our coconut trees have been felled to pave the way for the location of the industries in our domain. It has been very, very challenging for us,” Olopade lamented.
Neglect of Host Communities
By and large, it would seem that there is a grand conspiracy between the Lagos State Government and the Lekki Free Zone, Lekki Deep SeaPort and Dangote Industries Limited to neglect the host communities. It was learnt that prior to the acquisition of the vast acres of land for siting the Dangote Industries, the Lekuru Community was promised adequate compensation before its residents were relocated to their present location over 15 years ago.
No compensations were paid to residents of Tiye; Imobido; Ilege; Idasho; Lekuru, Imagbon-Segun; Oke-Segun; Itoke; Idotun; Alasia; Okunraye; Mosa; Olomowewe; Okeyanta and Lekki communities, neither were any houses built to properly resettle the residents, who were displaced from their ancestral homes for several years running, as it is done globally in such circumstances.
There has been no electricity in the communities for the past 10 years, even as a greater part of the communities are being fenced round to prepare the grounds for final eviction of residents. A cemetery in Okeyanta where the locals have been burying their dead since 1949 (74 years ago) is on the verge of being excavated.
“We were also promised schools, hospitals, scholarships, jobs, palliatives and water, among other needs. But since then, the only thing Dangote provided was a borehole and two tanks. The borehole functioned for only about two weeks and parked up. Today, it is a dilapidated and abandoned facility in the community. It also provided school bags, textbooks and exercise books to a few pupils and students in place of the scholarships promised,” a resident of Okeyanta Community said.
Findings also revealed that the neglect of host communities is being replicated in the pattern of recruitment in Dangote Fertilizer and the Deep SeaPort, a trend that is equally playing out in Dangote Refinery. Besides the poor remuneration of a paltry N50,000 for a few indigenes, who manage to secure jobs at the fertilizer plant, about 80 of 100 persons recruited are Hausa, Igbo and Niger Delta, while an insignificant number are given to indigenes of the communities.
Environmental Hazards/Health Complications
Besides the business and economic interests, as well as job creation and revenue generation potential of the Dangote Fertilizer and Refinery, there are also huge environmental hazards and health complications that will follow. Already, inhalation of Ammonia from the fertilizer plant has started creating health issues and killing some employees of the company. Checks revealed that on a particular day in June, about five persons fainted at the plant and were revived after being fed with milk and had to be taken to a hospital in Ikeja, some five or six hours away from Ibeju-Lekki. One of them was not so lucky, as he was said to have died before getting to the hospital.
It is anticipated that the environmental issues and health conditions will get even more severe when the Dangote Refinery begins operations. Concerns have been raised over the companies’ preparedness to mitigate the environmental impacts of their activities beginning with a proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which result has been kept a top secret.
But in an earlier report by the writer in October 2022, a senior employee of Dangote Industries Limited, who said he was not authorized to speak on the issues, assured that the management had put adequate measures in place to mitigate all hazards that would be associated with its operations and activities, as well as all the concerns raised by host communities. However, investigations during the visits to the affected communities revealed that nothing whatsoever has been done.
What May Go Wrong With Dangote Refinery
Except urgent steps are taken to redress the situation, the Dangote Petrochemicals and Refinery may not commence operations any time soon. Insiders say in spite of the hurried commissioning of the plant a few days after former President Muhammadu Buhari’s exit from power, just to score a political point, construction works on the refinery are currently at a mere 60 percent completion.
Besides, it was learnt from reliable sources that most of the component parts of the facility are substandard and may need to be completely replaced for the refinery to attain maximum functionality when it eventually begins operations. An insider specifically accused the Group Executive Director of Strategy, Capital Projects and Portfolio Development, Dangote Industries Limited, Devakumar V. G. Edwin, of what he described as ‘conspiracy.’
He faulted the recommendation and deployment of a single-train technology for a refinery with a capacity for refining 650,000 barrels per day (bpd), wondering what will happen to the facility if the single-train malfunctions at any point in time.
Another argument is its reliance on crude supplies from three continents, besides the Niger Delta from where a $6 billion worth of pipeline has been laid to ensure a ceaseless supply of crude oil.
“They forget that the Niger Delta is a volatile region and that militant activities and continuing oil theft could potentially disrupt supplies to the refinery. There is also the possibility of refurbishing the four moribund refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna unless they are saying that those refineries have been forgotten and confined to the dustbin of history.
“When the old refineries are eventually revived, as former President Muhammadu Buhari administration purportedly approved contracts for their refurbishment shortly before leaving office on May 29, 2023, plus the licensing of new refineries to be floated by Abdulsamad Rabiu of BUA Group in Akwa Ibom State and other parts of the country, the Dangote Refinery will face stiff competition that will definitely pose serious challenges to it,” the source said.
Civil Society Intervention
At a meeting organised by the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) tagged: Dialogue With Residents Of Ibeju-Lekki On Rights Agitations, Priority Shaping And Systems Engagement with traditional rulers, members of Community Development Committees (CDCs) and youth leaders in Lagos on Saturday, August 5, 2023, participants stressed the need for urgent intervention to assist the affected communities and save them from total ‘annihilation’.
Youth Chairman of Imagbon-Segun Community, Arepo Azeez, a CDC member, Wakilatu Apeyan and Olukoya Oluwasegun, among others who pleaded anonymity, confirmed the highhandedness and neglect of the host communities by the Lagos State Government (since former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration), Dangote Industries, Lekki Free Zone and Lekki Deep Sea Port, among others.
They lamented that after several meetings at the behest of Dangote Industries Limited during which they were asked what they wanted, management of the company started playing pranks on them and that those handling the negotiations were dodgy with their back-and-forth tactics, which had lasted for over 10 years after several acres of their farmlands were seized.
“There is no full employment for our people after their promise to provide jobs for our youths. The few they manage to employ get sacked after three or six months with flimsy excuses. Most of the job slots are reserved for Hausa people. Dangote Industries Limited instituted a bursary of N50,000 for our secondary school students with the most stringent conditions and requirements.
“Apart from that Dangote has done nothing worthwhile in the affected communities. The most worrisome aspect is that after former Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with us for building a seven-line jetty, they started building a 21-line jetty, which they started using to dredge sand from the sea and now we are made to understand that the facility will be used as the pipeline for shipping crude oil to the Dangote Refinery. It turned out that the Lagos State Government and management of Dangote Industries deceived us,” they lamented.
They also expressed concern at the development adding that the most painful aspect is that neither Fashola nor management of Dangote Industries Limited and other companies that have seized acres of land in the area like the Lekki Deep Seaport, Lekki Free Port Terminal, Kellog and Rano, among others, are not doing anything to compensate the affected communities, improve the living conditions or resettle them in compliance with international best practices.
It is of grave concern that Dangote Industries and the companies have been trying hard to evade their responsibility and be accountable to the host communities, as they have failed to provide explanations for their attitude and negligence. The big question is: Now that it has been established that the over 4.3 million residents will be displaced sooner than later, what becomes of the residents?
Responding to the development, Director of Programmes at CAPPA, Philip Jakpor said: “Reports from the local community in Ibeju-Lekki are very disturbing in the light of the Public Relations (PR) blitz and claims that Dangote Industries and other companies will create jobs and bring other opportunities for progress, well being and better life for the locals.
“If the reports are confirmed, then another environmental disaster of the Niger Delta magnitude is in the making in Lagos State, especially when the Dangote Refinery begins operations. Therefore, it behoves the government and all the companies involved in the ‘corporate annexation’ of Ibeju-Lekki to critically look into the allegations of the affected communities and residents and do the needful in accordance with the dictates of global best practice as it obtains in other climes. It will be easier and cheaper to negotiate with the affected communities now. Doing otherwise might lead to crises with huge consequences.”
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