BAYELSA GOVERNMENT TASKS FEDERAL MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT ON TACKLING OIL POLLUTION
Bayelsa State Governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson has urged the Federal Ministry of Environment to convene a stakeholders meeting involving the government, community leaders, youths, security agencies, oil companies and the legislature to holistically address the lapses inherent in the country’s institutions, regarding the operations of multi-national oil companies in the Niger Delta.
He said some of the oil companies operating in the Niger Delta were exploiting the situation by creating double standards concerning issues of remediation of the environment and payment of compensation for oil spillage arising from their exploration activities.
Governor Dickson made the suggestion over the weekend, when a delegation led by the Minister of Environment, Hon. Amina Mohammed and the Minister of State in that ministry; Ibrahim Jibril paid him a courtesy visit in Government House, Yenagoa.
His words: “You really can’t know the Niger Delta until you have visited Bayelsa. This is the epicenter of the Niger Delta with all of its blessings, prospects and challenges. I am delighted that the Federal government through this visit is indicating seriousness. It is a huge problem, but these issues for those of us who are living with them daily; these issues go beyond promises, conferences, talk shops and beautiful press statements and so it is our hope and belief that, this move is real and that this signals a genuine commitment to addressing these monumental problems that have accumulated for decades.
“All stakeholders have a role to play to address the weaknesses that are inherent in the institutions in this country, which some of the oil majors are exploiting and as it were to create two standards; one standard that is Nigerian and one that is Niger Delta where they can pollute everyday and damage everything and suffer no consequences at all and another international standard, where if there is a spill in the Gulf of Mexico BP will pay billions of dollars and pounds.”
According to Governor Dickson, the oil companies do not hesitate to pay billions of dollars and pounds as compensation for oil spillage overseas, while they suffer no consequences for the same damage in the Niger Delta.
On the level of environmental degradation and effects on the people over the years, the Governor noted that, Bayelsa was most impacted with one oil firm alone, as one oil firm alone was responsible for about a thousand pollution incidents annually.
Commending the Federal Government for its initiative to clean up of Ogoni land in Rivers State and other parts of the Niger Delta, the Governor pointed out that, the problem of protecting the environment, which he described as a collective heritage of mankind, was not only for the Niger Delta and the country, but a global challenge in view of the threat posed by global warming.
Governor Dickson assured the Minister for Environment of the state government’s effective collaboration in ensuring a successful clean up exercise in Bayelsa and promised to avail her of a copy of the study being undertaken by the state government on the damage caused by oil pollution.
Earlier in her remarks, the Minister for Environment, Hon. Amina Mohammed, had said the purpose of her visit to Bayelsa was in fulfillment of the campaign promise made by President Muhammadu Buhari on the clean up of the Niger Delta.
Hon. Amina said, she had visited Rivers State, noting that, in the next couple of weeks her ministry would launch the clean up of Ogoni land and the rest of the Niger Delta region.
The Minister of Environment, who said her ministry was keen on ensuring that a policy to make oil companies to be accountable to pollution activities was firmly entrenched, promised that measures would be adopted towards ensuring that the environment remains clean.
Hon. Amina said, part of her ministry’s mandate involves seeking alternative livelihoods for the youths in the Niger Delta, through the diversification policy of the Federal Government as well as devise ways of putting an end to gas flaring by putting it into economic use to guarantee sustainable development.
“The clean up also has to bring dividends to the people, so we hope that, whatever work that, comes out of it in terms of the clean up, we hope that it is one that will benefit first the people of the Niger Delta.
“And, then we are very keen over the concerns that we have over the issues that have caused pollution over the past that we do hold the oil companies to account and that the polluter pays policy is firmly entrenched, so that there are resources for this to happen.”