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Bayelsa gov. plans int’l Commission of Inquiry on oil pollution, degradation

Governor Henry Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, on Wednesday, said he plans to set up an International Commission of Inquiry made up of selected world opinion leaders that would visit Bayelsa communities and tour the Niger Delta to see first-hand the level of degradation and pollution of the region due to the activities of Multi-national Oil Companies (IOCs).

Governor Dickson, who made the pronouncement during the launch of the Arise For Bayelsa campaign at the Dr. Gabriel Okara Cultural Centre, Yenagoa, said the aim was to call to account all those who for decades have plundered and degraded the environment without remorse.

In a statement by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media Relations, Mr. Fidelis Soriwei, the governor noted that the launch would herald the beginning of a long campaign by his government as a fulfillment of the commitment made during the last World Environmental Day, to shift attention from education and infrastructural deficit to what he referred to as environmental terrorism.

The governor said the short documentary aired during the launch was the true reflection of the hardship and pains the people of Bayelsa and the entire Niger Delta have been experiencing for over 60 years at the hands of a federal government that care less about the wellbeing, welfare and survival of the people of this region beyond the oil.

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He also chastised the Federal Government for failing to enforce environmental and safety standards as well as regulations on Multi-national Oil Companies, IOC’s operating in the region and called on all, especially the ICT-compliant youths of the state to use the Internet to tell the Bayelsa story so as to prick the conscience firstly of the Nigerian authorities and ultimately the conscience of the world to elicit support and understanding.

He said “this has gone from that to terrorism against our poor oppressed people who are left alone at the mercy of organised cartels, International oil companies. If you look at their practices and activities in this country at least on this state that I know of and in the Niger Delta, they are carrying on as criminal gangs with their collaborators, some local, some foreign.

Governor Dickson pointed out that IOCs operating in the state constitute the single biggest threat to the safety, peace and stability of the state, especially the Nigerian Agip Oil Company, which he accused of funding terrorism, criminality and break down of law and order in the state.

He said “they are not only polluting our land, creeks, waterways and communities but they are taking their terrorist activities their criminal activities  to yet another frightening leve. All these cases of killings during elections, people terrorising southern Ijaw, killing people and even affecting our democratic practices funded by Agip in the likeness of oil Surveillance Contractors and a parallel government in this state that compromising all the layers of security in our country.

“Killing and maiming and terrorising people in their wake, Nembe Basambiri, a certain Kojo who is working there, Agip contractor funded, the southern ijaw the activities of a certain David Lyon and his people funded by Agip.

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“Agip is not interested in the stability and safety of our communities so this is how far they have escalated their terrorist activities, so when we talk of environmental terrorist, when we talk of terrorism perpetrated by, funded and encouraged by IOCs, you come to Bayelsa and you see a classic case so.

He used the occasion to re-echo is call for the enthronement of an egalitarian, fair and equitable country, while urging all Bayelsans, both at home and in the diaspora, to rise up and support the campaign.

In a welcome address, Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Ebipate Akpaingolo said the activities of Multi-national oil firms have had colossal negative effects on the environment and the commonwealth of the people of Bayelsa who are mainly farmers and fishermen.

Mr. Ebipate, who explained that it is largely a corollary of incessant oil spills and gas flaring without any form of environmental remediation or payment of adequate compensation to affected communities, stressed that despite the outcome of the Kyoto Protocol In 1997, it is unfortunate that oil companies still flare gas in Bayelsa and Niger Delta region.

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He said “Studies have shown that an estimate of about 13 million  barrels of crude oil have been spilled in the Niger Delta since the 1950s. For example the Bayelsa state Ministry of Environment recorded over 3000 spills from Agip fatalities between 2012 and 2018.

According to him, oil spills have contaminated rivers and streams, air, plants while farm produce in the Niger Delta are no longer consumable as elements of casinoogenic hydrocarbon are found in tuber crops.

The Commissioner said the assertion has been corroborated by the UN Environmental Program,  UNEP where it was mentioned that continued exposure to contaminated water, air and soil have put life expectancy rate in the Niger Delta at approximately 10% below the national figure.

He said in response to the environmental injustice, the state government decided to launch project “Rise for Bayelsa” campaign to attract international attention to the malicious and damaging operations of oil company in the state.

Mr. Ebipate said the fundamental demands from the oil multinationals include, clean up the environment contaminated by oil spills, payment of adequate compensation to all affected communities and investing in the host communities and providing lasting solution to the perennial problems of oil spills.