The Bayelsa state government has advocated stringent environmental laws for the protection and preservation of the environment against crude oil pollution and other activities occasioned by oil exploration and exploitation activities in the Niger Delta. AHERHOKE AMOS OKIOMA writes
Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State is not hiding his frustration over the seemingly unending activities of crude oil exploiters who have over the years negatively affected the ecosystem of the Niger Delta region of Nigeria as both flora and fauna have had their population depleted heavily to the detriment of inhabitants of the area.
To this end, he had told members of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency ( NOSDRA), when they were led by the Chairman, Major Lancelot Anyanya (rtd), on a courtesy visit in Yenagoa, that an environmental summit would be organized soon to discuss ways of mitigating the effects of oil and gas exploration and exploitation in the region.
He expressed his administration’s commitment to collaborate with NOSDRA to facilitate the speedy passage of the amended act of the agency, which has undergone its first and second readings at the National Assembly.
He emphasised the need for international oil companies operating in the Niger Delta to protect the environment and decried the way and manner the environment was being abused with what he referred to as ‘reckless abandon,’ describing Bayelsa State as the most fragile and highly compromised area, where environmental pollution has devastated the ecosystem for several decades since the discovery of crude oil in 1956.
Dickson explained that the health implications arising from such environmental pollution necessitated the establishment of the toxicology institute to better appreciate the magnitude of the problems facing the people.
Granting the request of NOSDRA for a functional office in the state, Governor Dickson called for the siting of the headquarters of the agency in Bayelsa, as the state is host to the bulk of oil and gas operations in the Niger Delta.
As part of efforts to address environmental problems, the Governor proposed that the federal government should build receptacles to evacuate crude oil recovered from illegal refineries as well as design mechanisms for effective and proper remediation of impacted areas.
“I have said it before that what has been going on in Bayelsa state, the Niger Delta and in all oil producing areas concerning the levity with which oil companies treat the issues of the environment and the maintenance of environmental and health standards.
“When you look at all of these and particularly listening to your chilly statistics, which I believe is only a tip of the iceberg, one is really left with no other conclusion than that, we are actually facing a case of environmental terrorism.
“What has been going on in the Niger Delta since the discovery of oil; a situation where more than one spill takes place in Bayelsa every day, going by what your statistics is telling us and all these sites are treated with reckless abandon and the environment is left to fend for itself, the livelihood and in fact the lives of the people and the ecosystem are not attended to. What then is more of terrorist action than this?
This is an opportunity again for us to remind ourselves that we all have a duty to work together as government to government and it is also an opportunity for us to call on all stakeholders especially the oil companies, regulatory agencies and everybody to be alive to the need to protect our environment.”
In his remarks, Chairman of NOSDRA, Major Lancelot Anyanya (rtd), explained that the visit was aimed at strengthening the existing collaboration between government and the agency on efforts at curbing oil spills and its attendant effects.
He commended the state government for initiating a baseline study on the toxicological impact of oil exploration on the Bayelsa environment and called for support, especially in the area of developing effective institutional framework for enforcement of appropriate legislations.
Also contributing, the Director -General of NOSDRA, Dr. Peter Idabor, advocated the amendment of relevant laws to alleviate the suffering of oil bearing communities.
According him, research findings indicate that the rate of oil spill in Bayelsa, is more devastating than that of Ogoni in Rivers State, which has been widely reported, adding that the state records about 40 spill cases in a month.