June 24, 2024

Bayelsa oil pollution: Ijaw coalition demands Commission’s Report implementation

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Bayelsa oil pollution: Ijaw coalition demands Commission’s Report implementation

Nathan Tamarapreye, Yenagoa

A coalition of Ijaw Interest Groups has called on the Federal and Bayelsa Governments to implement the recommendations of the Bayelsa Oil and Environmental Commission (BSOEC) without further delays.

Speaking on behalf of the groups in Lagos, Mr Efiye Bribena, made the position known at a joint Press Conference on Multinational Panel Report.

The report is titled “ENVIRONMENTAL GENOCIDE: “The Human and Environmental Cost of Big Oil in Bayelsa, Nigeria”.

The joint press briefing was attended by the Secretary, Ijaw Elders Forum (IEF), Lagos, Mr Efiye Bribena; Moderator, Ijaw Nation Forum, Mr Ben Okoro; BOT Chairman, Embasara Foundation Chief Amagbe D. Kentebe; BOT Chairperson, Ijaw Women Connect (IWC) Ms Annkio Briggs.

Others are President, Ijaw Professionals Association (IPA) Lagos, Mr Pattison Boleigha; President, Homeland Chapter Ijaw Professionals Association (IPA) Hon. Iniruo Wills; President, Ijaw Diaspora Council (IDC) Prof. Mondy Selle-Gold;

The Programme Manager/Head, ERA Niger Delta Resource Centre, Yenagoa, Alagoa Morris; Chairman, Bayelsa NGOs Forum, Kemedengiyefa Opia; Mr Lanre Suraju.

BSOEC chaired by the former Archbishop of York and now member of the UK House of Lords, Lord John Sentamu, was set up four years ago, by Sen Seriake Dickson, former Governor of Bayelsa.

According to BSOEC report, about 110-165 million gallons of crude oil have spilt in the state over the last 50 years, amounting to 10-15 times the volume of the Exxon Valdez Spill (11 million gallons).

Bribena noted that the long-awaited report of the BSOEC was received with hope by the People of Bayelsa State and the communities of Niger Delta.

“We also acknowledge that the report is a step in the right direction and an opportunity for useful insights into the destruction of the ecosystem in the region but hasten to caution that it is still far from being an achievement.

“The urgent and faithful implementation of its recommendations is what will indeed show a commitment to achieve the intended objectives and crystallize the huge significance of the Report.

“In driving the implementation of the report, we strongly recommended to the federal and state government to immediately promulgate a Niger Delta-wide Environmental Remediation Programme.

“Several environmentally damaged communities due to oil and gas exploration activities such as Polobubo (formerly Tsekelewu) in the west Niger Delta abound,” he said.

The secretary also urged the governments to impose stern sanctions within the State’s power, including revocation of rights of way and land leases over operational sites of repeated or egregious environmental breaches.

Bribena said the government should dedicate five to 10 per cent of Bayelsa’s revenues to investment as part of the Environmental Recovery Fund proposed in the BSOEC Report.

He added that this was to redress its contributory responsibility for the pollution plague by reason of the state government’s failure in acting within its powers all these years to stop the scourge and safeguard its communities, environment and people.

The secretary said the State would reap commensurately and multidimensionally from the fruits of the recovery fund.

Bribena urged the governments to institute a strong call or global campaign on shareholders of Shell, ENI/Agip, Chevron and other operators and/or their parent companies listed on the London, New York and European Stock Exchanges.

“We demand verifiable comprehensive reports on their environmental pollution footprint in the Niger Delta and remedial measures taken, including the environmental status of their oilfields at the time of divesting them to Nigerian private operators,” the coalition stated.

According to Bribena, the government should appoint l a Bayelsa State Special Counsel on Environmental Justice Enforcement, with adequate provisioning and periodic public reporting obligations.

He further said that they considered the BSOEC’s recommendation of $12 billion for the Bayelsa Recovery Fund to be grossly underestimated.

He stated this was in cognisance of the cumulative length, volumes and impacts of the petroleum sector’s environmental genocide in Bayelsa.

He added that the estimate must be carefully reviewed for adequacy by the state government and key parties.

Bribena decried that in the four years of waiting for the commission’s report, the state government appeared to have done little or nothing in combating the scourge which kept occurring not only routinely as usual but also in outrageous dimensions on several occasions.

“Agip’s facilities drenched Lasukugbene and its surroundings with crude oil for weeks in 2021. Conoil callously spewed oil and gas repeatedly for extended periods in the Akassa axis in the same year.

“Shell has not only soaked Ikarama Community in spills during the period but has had NOSDRA issue clean-up certificates for sites that still contain ponds of spilled oil.

“Also, the Aiteo Group that took over some oilfields and facilities in allegedly hazardous states from Shell was the host of the catastrophic Santa Barbara Oilfield blowout that lasted for 5-6 weeks in 2021.

“The lack of any serious signal or action by the state government on any of these disasters or at the launch of the BSOEC report is quite disappointing,” he said.

Bribena said the state government should stop the talk and clean up the oiled wasteland, adding that only then could the People trust the governments.

Contributing virtually, the Chair of the Expert Working Group of BSOEC, Dr Kathryn Nwajiaku-Dahou said that the findings were based on over 1,000 pieces of evidence gathered and analysed using scientific research methodologies by independent scientists Commissioner by the commission.

She said that toxicology tests on 1,650 persons indicated the presence of heavy metals far above the WHO safe limits.

Mr Iniruo Wills, a former Commissioner of Environment in Bayelsa noted that the report was a credible one and challenged President Bola Tinubu to do what his predecessor failed to do by tackling the endemic pollution in Bayelsa and Niger Delta.

He said that the Bayelsa government should implement the report to save the oil-bearing communities from extinction.

Also, Mr Alagoa Morris, a renowned environmentalist urged the state government to ensure that the environment and victims are compensated.

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