Bayelsa State Governor, Henry Seriake Dickson, on Wednesday night launched the Rise for Bayelsa Campaign, an initiative to attract global attention to the ravaging effects of oil spills, pollution and environmental degradation in the state.
At the event held at the Dr. Gabriel Okara Cultural Centre in Yenagoa, he was however unsparing of the international oil companies (IOCs) operating in the state.
He accused them of constituting the biggest threat to the security and stability of the state and the Niger Delta region under the guise of awarding crude oil pipeline surveillance contracts.
His Special Adviser on Public Affairs, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, quoted the governor as accusing the oil multinationals of funding terrorism, criminality and breakdown of law and order in the state.
His words: “They are not only polluting our land, creeks, waterways and communities. They are also taking their terrorist and criminal activities to yet another frightening level.
“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 crude oil pipeline surveillance contractors and forming a parallel government in this state compromise all the layers of security in our country.
“They have been killing, maiming and terrorising people in Nembe Bassambiri. A certain Kodjo is working as an Agip contractor funded by the company. In Southern Ijaw, there is a certain David Lyon and his people whose activities are being funded by Agip.
“Agip is not interested in the stability and safety of our communities. This is how far they have escalated their terrorist activities. So when we talk of environmental terrorism perpetrated, funded and encouraged by IOCs, you come to Bayelsa and you see a classic case.”
“The launch of the Rise for Bayelsa Campaign would herald the beginning of a long crusade by my government as a fulfilment of the commitment made during the last World Environmental Day to shift attention from education and infrastructure deficit to the scourge of environmental terrorism.”
Dickson said the short documentary aired during the launch was a true reflection of the hardship the people of Bayelsa and the entire Niger Delta have been experiencing for over 60 years at the hands of a federal government that does not care about the wellbeing, welfare and survival of the people of the region beyond the oil.
He chastised the federal government for its failure to enforce environmental and safety standards as well as regulations on the oil companies operating in the region.
He called on all, especially the ICT-compliant youths of the state, to use the internet to portray the Bayelsa story so as to conscientise the Nigerian authorities and the world at large toward eliciting support and understanding.
“This has gone from that to terrorism against our poor, oppressed people who are left alone at the mercy of organised cartels and international oil companies. If you look at their practices and activities in this country, in this state and in the Niger Delta, they are carrying on as criminal gangs with their collaborators. Some local, some foreign,” he said while urging Bayelsans at home and in the Diaspora to support the campaign.
In a welcome address, the Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Ebipatei Apaingolo, said the activities of IOCs have had colossal negative effects on the environment and the commonwealth of the people of Bayelsa, who are mainly farmers and fishermen.
Apaingolo, 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 the Niger Delta region.
“Studies have shown that 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 facilities between 2012 and 2018.
According to him, oil spills have contaminated rivers and streams, the air, plants while farm produce in the Niger Delta are no longer consumable as elements of carcinogenic hydrocarbon are found in tuber crops.
He said the UN Environmental Programme noted that continued exposure to contaminated water, air and soil have put life expectancy rate in the Niger Delta at approximately 10 per cent below the national figure.
He added that in response to the environmental injustice, the Rise for Bayelsa Campaign was launched to attract international attention to the malicious and damaging operations of oil companies in the state.
Apaingolo said the fundamental demands of the campaign include the oil multinationals cleaning up the environment contaminated by oil spills, payment of adequate compensation to all affected communities, investing in the host communities, and providing lasting solution to the perennial problems of oil spills.