Nigerian journalists drive constructive change following oil contamination investigation

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Earlier this yr, two journalists from Nigeria, Kelechukwu Iruoma and Ruth Olurounbi, teamed as much as discover and doc the affect of oil contamination on communities within the Niger Delta the place tens of millions of barrels of oil had spilled a long time in the past.

Their investigation revealed that oil spills within the area of Ogoniland, residence to greater than 850,000 folks, continued to have damaging and harmful well being results on the Ogoni folks, a number of the oldest settlers within the space who depend on farming and fishing for his or her livelihoods.

At the moment, their work has led to a dedication by authorities to offer protected ingesting water to the townships affected by oil contamination – which research have beforehand linked to most cancers, childhood malnutrition and low fertility – ensuing within the poisoning of their water.

The journalists visited 4 communities the place wells had been contaminated with benzene, a recognized carcinogen at ranges over 900 occasions above the World Well being Group (WHO) guideline. They engaged native leaders to enlist 50 non-smoking, non-alcohol-drinking residents to present blood samples, which the reporters delivered to a lab in Lagos for analysis. Lab testing performed by well being professionals working with Iruoma and Olurounbi reported that greater than half of the residents who gave blood samples had dangerously excessive ranges of an enzyme that may be a marker for liver harm.

Whereas the land and water important to the assist techniques of those that stay there are contaminated by the oil spills, transferring elsewhere shouldn’t be an choice for a lot of. “In our tradition, land is essential to us. And, if you’re left a bit of land […] you’re left one thing very pricey. You’re left a legacy and also you don’t transfer away from that,” says Olurounbi. “However yearly harvesting there’s much less and fewer to reap as a result of the land won’t reproduce.”

This is the reason restoration of the realm is essential to the lives of those that name Ogoniland residence. Nonetheless, authorities’s promise to hire contractors to offer potable water has come practically a decade after a United Nations Setting Programme (UNEP) report known as on the Nigerian authorities and oil firms to share the price of intensive restoration of the realm.

“The velocity of the clean-up has been so gradual that the specified outcomes won’t be achieved,” an environmental scientist and Ogoniland resident advised Iruoma and Olurounbi. “That is what the folks have been residing with all by their lives. That is suicide.”

Restoration is significant to supporting the betterment of public well being within the area which has been devastated by a number of oil spills.

Of their investigation, the 2 journalists leveraged applied sciences akin to drones to indicate the extent of environmental wreckage within the space, and interviewed residents, leaders and native scientists.  Olurounbi and Iruoma obtained an ICFJ Alumni Reporting Grant which included $7,500 plus hands-on coaching in utilizing drones, capturing nonetheless and video pictures of the contaminated areas, and creating infographics. The funds from the grant had been used to pay for the blood assessments and journey to the area.

“We now have photos and movies that present the contaminated soil and rivers. Rivers the place folks fish or the place they go to take water, even now,” Iruoma says. “We used the drone photographs and video to indicate clearly how the oil spill affected the livelihood of the folks.”

Backed by Microsoft’s Information Labs, the grants had been created to assist information journalism and immersive storytelling in ways in which promote transparency and understanding.

Purposes had been open to alumni of earlier ICFJ packages. Iruoma participated in ICFJ’s Reporting Fellowship on Migration and Local weather for Nigerian Journalists in 2017. Olurounbi is a member of the Nigerian chapter of WanaData, a community of feminine journalists developed by ICFJ and Code for Africa that’s driving digital storytelling throughout the continent.

This story has been shortlisted within the Excellence in Environmental Journalism class of the Fetisov Journalism awards, probably the most profitable journalism awards in historical past. The profitable record will likely be chosen by December 1, 2020.

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