- Forensic experts study pollution effects on locals
Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The Governor of Bayelsa State, Mr Seriake Dickson, wednesday accused the multinational oil companies operating in the Niger Delta of engaging in what he described as â€˜environmental terrorismâ€™ against the people of the region.
Dickson who spoke during the celebration of the Worldâ€™s Environment Day at the Gabriel Okara Cultural Centre in Yenagoa, said he had also inaugurated a group of forensic experts who are visiting all parts of the state to get actual statistics of the devastation caused by the activities of the oil companies.
The governor, who also doubles as the Chairman of the South-south Governorsâ€™ Forum, argued that though the topic for this year, â€˜Plastic Managementâ€™, was important, the effect of plastics was less devastating than oil spillages wrecking the Niger Delta environment.
â€œYouâ€™ve heard me say over and over again since the beginning of our government that what these oil companies are doing in our state, communities and across the Niger Delta is nothing short of environmental terrorism.
â€œThis year, while acknowledging the importance of the world theme, our theme for now and moving forward is about how we take back our environment that has been stolen from us and that was why we approved our own theme for Bayelsa which is: â€˜Bayelsa: our lives, our future,â€™ the governor said.
According to Dickson, while the oil companies treat their people in Europe and America like kings and queens, oil host communities in the Niger Delta were being treated like their lives do not matter.
He added: â€œThey feel that the life of an American or British citizen who suffers a tiny amount of pollution has more value than our lives and that is why when they operate in those areas, they make sure no oil drops and if there is, they pay fines in hundreds of millions of dollars.
â€œBut they come to this state and literally pour oil everywhere they operate and give clean up jobs and recruit criminals parading everywhere and think they are contributing to our development.
â€œBut the time has come for us to say no to that. Iâ€™ve come to ask you to be prepared because these people are experts in destabilisation, propaganda and blackmail.
â€œThey know how to tear poor communities apart, how to turn societies that are still developing upside down but I believe I have your mandate to lead this charge and so we shall move on.â€
Dickson said he had already ordered oil companies in the state to submit a detailed proposal of how they intend to clean up the already polluted environment in the state and ensure a more civilised way of oil exploitation.
â€œAt the meeting with the oil majors, my message to them was clear: they should get ready to clean up our environment , for remedial actions on our environment, within the shortest possible time or two weeks to let me have a detailed proposal as to how they intend to remedy the environment in all the polluted sites in this state.
â€œLet me use this opportunity to announce to the world that all is not well in the Niger Delta, Bayelsa State and Ijaw nation. The difference between what is going on and an assassin walking up to somebody and shooting is that the ongoing environmental terrorism takes time to manifest, destroy and finally exterminate and our position is that we will not let that happen,â€ Dickson noted.
He said the state government has also inaugurated a group of internationally acclaimed forensic experts who over the period has gone to all the communities and who are now compiling the effects of the prolonged devastation and pollution on the environment, health and wellbeing.
â€œThe scientists in no distant time will announce the findings in that report but let me say that I am saddened and frightened about the snippets of the report that I have seen. I can clearly see the connection between the prolonged decades of pollution of our waters and creeks and the rising cases of cancer and generally the shortened lifespan of our people,â€ the governor explained.
In his remarks, the Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Ebipatei Apaingolo, said Bayelsa remains the most impacted state in oil pollution from the activities of various oil companies operating in the Niger Delta.
He said his ministry had participated in 274 oil spill joint investigation visits on Agip facilities and recorded 580 cases of oil spills, stating that other oil companies are not free from such incessant incidents of oil spillage and no adequate compensation or significant environment clean-up has been made so far.
The Commissioner for Health, Prof. Ebitimitula Etebu, also said emission of hydrocarbons arising from oil pollution and other activities cause respiratory diseases, which eventually shorten the lifespan of the people.