Last month I wrote about strange eye infections in Axim that some locals blamed on gas flaring. Axim, or Tired of Talk, I titled the post because local citizens were frustrated with talk that rarely seemed to get followed by action. When I visited Axim in August residents had been waiting several months for oil company officials to carry through on promises to send out a medical team for screenings.
I tried contacting Tullow Oil’s PR director when I returned to Accra and eventually reached him by phone. He said he couldn’t help me right away, but that he would get back to me with answers. I then talked to people at the Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas and heard from them that there had been no flaring since the end of June. So I sent another email to Tullow asking for verification on the status of the gas flaring as well as any updates they might have on the eye infections. More than a month and several reminders later, I’m still waiting for a response.
I also tried phoning the local MP for Axim, but was unable to reach her. In Accra I got in a conversation with a local business journalist who has a pretty good rapport with Tullow and Kosmos people. He decided to do a story on the gas flaring and traveled to Axim where he heard similar stories from locals. He phoned his Tullow contact and not long after a company representative invited him to go to Axim on September 2nd. It looked like they were finally going to send medical personnel out to do some exams. He called me a few days later to let me know the trip had been postponed until the 9th. I didn’t hear anything from him and found out that that trip had also been called off at the last minute. Apparently the medical personnel were not available.
As of today, there is no fixed date for the visit. “Soon,” is all the Tullow official would say.
I first heard about the flaring and eye infections in April. My source in Sekondi told me that Tullow was aware of the situation, but I was unable to confirm that information with Tullow. When I traveled to Axim, I heard that company representatives came to visit in May and promised then to send someone to do medical tests. Five months later, it seems that nothing has moved forward.
Reminder: Axim is about an hour’s drive from Takoradi.