By Anita Eboigbe
Abuja – Award winning journalist, Eromo Egbejule has explored the 1998 ‘Jesse Pipeline’ explosion in his directorial debut, ‘Jesse: The Funeral That Never Ended’.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the documentary film, which chronicled the Oct. 18, 1998 explosion, premiered at the Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) on Wednesday.
In 1998, a massive leaking pipeline passing through the Jesse community, connecting the south and north of Nigeria, triggered an explosion that ultimately resulted in the death of at least 1,000 people.
The incident left hundreds of undocumented dead and tens of survivors with ghastly scars.
Many victims were too badly burned to be identified, and over 300 bodies were buried in mass graves.
‘Jesse: The Funeral That Never Ended’, the rehashing of that tragic story as it happened, was produced by Arit Okpo, the host of CNN African Voices Changemakers.
Speaking on the movie, Egbejule said, “The documentary is the resurrection of an impeccably tragic story of a people who were hemmed in all sides by what should have been a blessing for them.
“With all the stories coming from the Niger Delta, it was important for us to tell this one lest they stay forgotten and become drops in the ocean.”
NAN reports that the film captures the crucial moments before and after the pipeline exploded, through the eyewitness accounts of survivors of the long-lasting inferno.
Also, accounts of relatives of the dead, first responders at the scene and community leaders made the cut.
It was narrated by Singto Saro-Wiwa, whose father, the playwright and environmental activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, was hanged in November 1995 by the Gen. Sani Abacha regime for his fervent criticism of the region’s exploitation.
The film also includes interviews with Nnimmo Bassey and the late Oronto Douglas, two contemporaries of Saro-Wiwa.
It threads the environmental degradation of the Niger Delta, the evolution of its people into collateral damage to continue the conversation on the region’s bittersweet relationship with crude oil.
According to Okpo, the story of Jesse is the story of the Niger-Delta; a people for whom a gift has become a tragedy.
She said: “It is a story of lives changed forever and of scars that exist long after the rest of the world has moved on.”