By PRECIOUS IBINABO DAVIDS, Port Harcourt
As a result of oil exploration activities, without which Nigeria’s economy cannot survive, Bayelsa State’s environment has suffered tremendously, leaving behind environmental pollution and degradation, Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson has said.
He stated this when the Minister of Environment, Amina J. Mohammed visited the state.
“Let the truth be told, this state is the head quarters of pollution, the epicenter of environmental degradation intact what I call environmental terrorism. We all understand the historical undertone that has made it imperative for the clean up to begin in Ogoni land and we are happy that it is being given additional impetus so we contend the Federal Government for their resolve to begin the clean-up of Ogoni land and by extension, the Niger Delta.
“In all of this let me make it very clear that this is where oil production started, this is where has flaring started, this is where the pollution of waterways and the creeks started and in this place you witness pollution activities every single day. So we are not just talking of pollution that has started for as long as our country has been producing oil, but also continuing pollution even today and as we speak,” he informed.
Dickson said that unlike areas where production activities have stopped for some years and decades, in Bayelsa it is a case of live and active acts of pollution day after day, beginning with the first oil well in Oloibiri from 1958 till date.
“We have borne the brunt of providing revenue to sustain the nation of which we are happy and pleased to do but the other side is that it has also brought about a lot of damage to our ecosystem.
“As we speak, I am conducting a study which I will oblige you a copy when I am done, where if you take the blood samples of all of us here in this area, and subject the samples to toxicological analysis, you will be shocked at the findings. The water we drink and even the sea food we consume which is our staple, all these are polluted in various degrees,” he explained.
He said that he environment is so important to us both now and in the future that he is compelled to say if Shakespeare were here, seeing the danger and threat posed by global warming and all other acts of environmental destruction, he probably would have adjusted one of his quotes ‘hell hath no fury like the scorn of a woman’ to ‘hell hath no fury like an environment degraded and abandoned.’
“That is the true state of the Bayelsa, Niger Delta and Nigerian environment and protecting this environment is not just a Niger Delta affair, neither is it a Nigerian problem but a world affair because the environment is a collective heritage of all mankind. So I like to commend you for this initiative and drive you have brought to this office. You assumed office barely a couple of months ago and here you are visiting the heart of the Niger Delta. You really can’t know the Niger Delta until you have visited Bayelsa. With all of its blessings, prospects and challenges, this still remains the heart of the Niger Delta. I am delighted that the Federal Government through this visit is indicating seriousness in tackling this huge problem.
“For those of us living with these issues day by day, it is important that this move go beyond promises, talknisms, press conferences and beautiful press statements. It is our hope, belief and expectation and permit me to add our prayer, that this move is real and it signals a genuine commitment to addressing this monumental problem that has accumulated over the years. All stakeholders in our state are ready to partner with you that’s why we also have traditional rules in attendance because community leaders also have a role to play, the youths have a role to play, security agencies have a role to play, the oil producing companies and the legislature also have a role to play,” he added.
He challenged all stakeholders in the oil industry to work to address the inherent institutional weaknesses in our country which some of these oil majors are exploiting as it were to create two standards; one standard that is Nigerian and the other Niger Delta (local and international standard).
“A situation where they can pollute and destroy everything and suffer no consequences at all and another international standard where if there is a spill in the guild of Mexico, BP will pay billions of pounds.
“We have very real challenges and I commit the government to an effective local collaboration with the Federal Government. Pollution activities from AGIP alone in this state in a year is about a thousand incidents of pollution. I am aware of the fraction of incidents attributable to what they call sabotage but let us face it, whose responsibility is it to protect pipelines and other facilities, whose legal responsibility is it to prevent sabotage, the communities that host them or the owners of the operational licenses who are and have been making billions and trillions yet the effect is on the innocent community dwellers which transcends this generation?
“To this effect we look forward to a stakeholders meeting where those of us with governmental responsibilities, community leaders, security agencies and the oil companies themselves will all be in attendance so that we can look at this matter holistically towards achieving a lasting solution,” he said.