Spates of Environmental Pollution in Niger Delta Worries Pyrates

Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt

The National Association of Seadogs (NAS), also known as the Pyrates Confraternity, has expressed concern over the spate of environmental pollution and livelihood loses occasioned by oil pollution in communities of the Niger Delta and its environs.

In his speech yesterday, to mark World Environment Day, the NAS Regional Chairman, Mr. Herbert Nwaka, lamented that the spate of pollution has been somewhat reinforced.

Nwaka, who spoke on the theme: “Addressing Artisanal Refineries and Environmental Pollution in Niger Delta Communities: The Time for Action is Now,” emphasised the need to stop the fast growing phenomenon of illegal artisanal refining of petroleum products.

He stated that as the number of artisanal refineries increase, so had the spate of explosions and deaths, and the worsening pollution and ecological disasters in the past three years.

The NAS’ chairman recalled that “in 2011, the scale and impacts of oil pollution was captured by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), after a scientific assessment of the impact of oil pollution on parts of the Ogoni environment.

“The report indicated massive soil and water contamination in Ogoniland, which has significantly compromised sources of livelihood and was slowly poisoning the inhabitants.  

“While this assessment by UNEP was carried out on selected sites in Ogoniland, it is generally believed that the level of pollution and livelihood loses is similar-or worse- in other oil bearing areas of the Niger Delta. 

“Records indicate that more than two billion litres of crude oil have been spilled in the Niger Delta and its environs over the last 50 years. According to Nigeria’s National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, there were ‘around 370 publicly available oil spill records in 2020’ alone.

“The emergence of artisanal refineries has added another layer of pollution to a region that has suffered tremendous environmental trauma since the 1950s.”

According to Nwaka, the effects of contamination from artisanal refineries has caused mass death of fishes and other aquatic life forms, pushing thousands of fishing people towards starvation and poverty.

He said that the mangroves, which were the breeding ground of fish and other aquatic species simply died off, adding that “it is the same for land, where contaminations destroy crops and make farms unproductive.”

The Pyrates confraternity also noted the inadequate responses of state actors to addressing the problem.

The association stressed that “actors at the sub national and national levels have consistently failed to diligently examine the key factors that drive the proliferation of artisanal refineries despite the exposure of their operators to fatalities.

“Artisanal refineries have grown and expanded principally because government has failed in its responsibilities to provide meaningful engagement for the people, adequately address the prevailing poverty and protect the network of oil installations in the Niger Delta region and its environs.”

The group, therefore, “calls on the government to go beyond the usual military response it always prefers in the Niger Delta and its environs, and immediately address other factor that makes risking death by roasting seem like the best available survival alternative for the people of the area.” 

The Pyrates confraternity disclosed that its members would hold a policy dialogue on June 27, 2022, which would bring together key members of the government with different levels of responsibility on the issues of pollution as well as an array of state and non-state actors to a brainstorm on possible solutions.

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