Some years ago, one of the oil companies decided to build a fish processing facility to support the local fishing business in some of its host communities in Akwa Ibom State.
The project had a super-cold storage into which the fishermen's catch would be deposited and a kiln for roasting the fish so that it would be well preserved for the market.
The facility was so huge that one of its projections was that fishermen from far and near would come to process their catch there at reduced cost. Great idea! But there was a snag.
After a few months of operation, it emerged that the fishermen were never able to catch sufficient fish to keep the facility running at optimum level. Why?
The waters in the area had been polluted by oil production activities and the fishes in the waters had died! Soon, oil workers and the community people in the area found a fitting alias for this cynical and highly under-utilised facility.
They dubbed it "the largest mortuary in West Africa" - such was its size and coldness! I recall this project today on reading of Mr. President's advise to Niger Delta youth to take to farming and stop vandalising oil pipelines.
Great advise! But where are the youth meant to do this farming?
On land that has been hardened and caked by the 24-hr daylight brought on by gas flaring?
On soil whose nutrients have been killed off by oil pollution? Or in swamps made unfit for any productive agriculture by unregulated oil production activities?
Where, for example, is the much-touted Ogoni clean-up or the UNEP report?
It could be tough for the average Niger Deltan not to sometimes get the feeling that the Federal Government and the oil firms just love to taunt his people..