Bayelsa Launches Global Campaign against Oil Spill, Environmental Degradation

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Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa

The Bayelsa State Government Wednesday launched a global campaign to draw attention to the ravaging effects of oil spills, pollution and environmental degradation in the state.

At a pre-event briefing at the Government House, Yenagoa, the Governor Seriake Dickson-led administration stressed that it had decided to lead the fight against the environmental menace in the Niger Delta to avoid the total annihilation of its people.

Tagged ‘Rise for Bayelsa,’ the state government noted that while oil spills in the western world rightly cause global outrage, in Bayelsa, spills happen daily and nothing is done to halt it.

At the briefing, which was attended by the Commissioner for the Environment, Ebipatei Apaingolo; Funkazi Koroye-Crooks, Commissioner in charge of Trade and Commerce; Daniel Alabrah, Special Adviser, Public Affairs; Ono Akpe, Senior Special Assistant on Media, the state government noted that the campaign will focus on the plight of oil-bearing communities across the state.

Also in attendance were Nollywood actors Francis Duru, Tamara Eteimo and singer Timi Dakolo.

“The people of Bayelsa are suffering from the effects of these spills and the environmental hazards they cause. The Rise for Bayelsa Campaign therefore, aims to compel those responsible to take action,” Alabrah said.

Apaingolo, Koroye-Crooks, Alabrah and the persons from the creative industry jointly agreed that the conditions under which the Niger Delta people, in whose land oil is exploited, live was sub-human.

They maintained that the federal government had continued to neglect the region, despite the huge resources it exploits from the Niger Delta.

“The demands of the ‘Rise for Bayelsa’ campaign include calling on multinational and local oil companies operating in the state to clean up spills immediately, provide swift compensation for impacted communities, provide long term sustainable solutions to avoid spills as well as invest in sustainable projects in communities in which they operate.

“Bayelsa has the record of being the state where Nigeria’s first oil well was drilled by Shell in 1956. Some of the big oil multinationals today have operational bases in the state and it produces about 40 per cent of the country’s oil and gas resources.

“However, Bayelsa continues to suffer vast environmental and human damage due to the exploration activities of the oil firms,” the government said.

It noted that oil spills had resulted in lifetime exposure of communities to contaminated air, water sources, soil and sediment as well as put life expectancy in the Niger Delta around 10 years lower than the national average, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

It also stated that flaring of gas, the process by which natural gas associated with petroleum extraction is burned off in the atmosphere, has had a significant negative impact on the Niger Delta, leading to environmental problems such as acid rain as well as generating greenhouse gases.