“I’m Vindicated”, Says Journalist, As Experts Debunk Alleged Claims of Water Pollution Against Coal Mining Firm In Aniocha North

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By Kenneth Orusi, Asaba

A renowned journalist and immediate past Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Delta State Council, Comrade Patrick Ochei has said that he had been vindicated by the expert report of Delta State Government which exonerated MOSRA Energy Limited, a coal mining company operating at Ugboba community of Aniocha North local government area, Delta State from complexity in the water colouration of Ojeokpa stream within Ukwu-Nzu community.

He raised this concern amidst the tension that was building up when a group of people from Ukwu-Nzu began to flood online space with allegations of water pollution by a coal mining company in Ugboba, a neighbouring community to Ukwu-Nzu and Obomkpa.

It became imperative for an independent investigative report to be carried out in order to ascertain the veracity of the alleged water pollution made against MOSRA Energy Limited by some indigenes of Ukwu-Nzu and Obomkpa communities, which claimed that the activities of the coal mining company were polluting the Ojeokpa and Iyi-Odo rivers.

The journalist had carried out a discreet and comprehensive investigation at the coal mining site and environs to unravel the cause of the water colouration and other alleged sundry damages to the environment.

In his report where he cited an experiment with the Iyioku spring water directly opposite the coal site, he postulated that if the coal mining was actually polluting the rivers, how come the Iyioku stream water remained pure, odourless and hygienic for drinking as against the Ojeokpa river which was miles away.

In his interpretation, he posited that if the river that is very close to the coal mining site is not polluted, how could Ojeokpa and Iyi-Odo which are far away be so polluted by the activities of the coal mining firm. And of course, the coal mining firm does not generate waste as what they basically do is the open cast system of coal mining; and in this case, Lignite Coal and not the usual black coal.

He also noted that whilst he visited the coal site, he was without face mask and there was no adverse reaction on his skin to indicate that the mining was pollutant.

In his then analysis, he had posited that the water could have been coloured as a result of the erosion control done by NEWMAP which had a network of flood channelling drainages comprising Ukwu-Nzu, Ugboba and Obomkpa into the rivers that hitherto connect Ojeokpa river from the evacuation point.

He was not authoritative in his assumption as a layman, but was incisive having carefully studied the facts and evidence provided by his indepth investigation, including revealing the effort made by MOSRA Energy Limited to complete the drainage and road construction work to link up Ukwu-Nzu/Ugboba/Obomkpa from the NEWMAP erosion controlled terminals.

It was observed that the report had infuriated some persons within the other communities where mining activities are not taking place but appear to be bent on criminalizing MOSRA Energy Limited.

This group of people saw the report as an affront and began to call for the head of the journalist through various threats in the social media.

However, as God would have it, the Delta State Government through the Ministry of Environment, got wind of the situation through the independent report and counter report, as well as petitions from the aggrieved communities, and in order to forestall any breakdown of law and order, swung into action by carrying out on the spot inspection of the coal mining corridors and the rivers where samples were collected for analysis.

It was a thorough job, and to God be the glory, the result of the water analysis has revealed that the journalist (Comrade Patrick Ochei) never lied nor took the side of MOSRA Energy Limited in piecing his report together.

According to the report as first read by the Director General of Delta State Environmental Protection Agency (DELSEPA), Mr. Victor Okolie before the Honourable Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Jamani Ejiro as reported by the Pointer Newspapers.

“The laboratory analysis has revealed that the water colouration at Ukwu-Nzu in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State, is not connected with the coal mining activities of MOSRA Energy Limited, a coal mining firm in Ugboba”.

For Mr. Benedict Nwaokocha, Project Coordinator of Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP), “Report revealed that the localised earth movement from the landslide caused the valley to cave in, hence, depositing itself on the sources of the stream, thereby changing its colour.

“The earth from the detached wall is what is being washed through one of the furrows into the stream”.

However, NEWMAP in exonerating itself from the expert point of view, debunked claims that the water colouration could have been caused by laterite used by it in its construction job.

It therefore stated authoritatively that, “with the discovery of the localised earth movement around the gully, it was imperative to state that the contamination of the water body should be attributed to natural causes”.

From the evidence above, it is important to note that the journalist who did an independent and professional report on the activities of MOSRA Energy Limited, did not take the side of the company nor any community involved in the dispute in his article.

According to him in an interview with some of his colleagues, he said, “I am vindicated by the expert report of DELSEPA and NEWMAP in conjunction with the Delta State Ministry of Environment, which is evident in the result of the water analysis carried out by them.

“In my capacity as a thoroughbred community journalist, I have always presented the facts of my reports in credible and balanced forms. I have never had any reason to use my journalistic advantage to weaken the voice of anybody, group or entity.

“Without sounding immodest, these communities trying to discredit me have all benefitted from my magnanimous projections in the past.

“Well, it is one of those things we face as journalists. My happiness now is that the truth had eventually come to the open. That alone gives me joy, not minding the threats against me”, Comrade Ochei narrated.

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