Environmentalists have called on the Bayelsa State Government to take urgent and immediate further action on the Bayelsa Oil and Environmental Commission report.
The report was presented to Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa at the House of Lords on Tuesday in London.
The report titled, “An Environmental Genocide: Counting the Human Cost of Oil in Bayelsa, Nigeria,” captured more than 60 years of oil exploration and pollution in the oil-rich state.
The BSOEC, established in March 2019 by the former governor, Seriake Dickson, noted that abnormally high concentrations of toxic heavy metals were found in soil and waters in Bayelsa oil communities.
The report attributed the massive pollution to activities of oil and gas exploration and production by oil firms and recommended a remediation fund of N12bn dollars over a period of 12 years.
Executive Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, an environment-focused non-governmental organisation, Dr. Nninmo Bassey, urged the Bayelsa government to go beyond receiving the report.
The renowned rights activist noted that it was obvious that Bayelsa was highly polluted with high toxicity levels begging for remediation.
“The horrific degradation of the Niger Delta is undeniable, as it is open and in plain sight.
“Considering how slow the Federal Government has been in making a decision for an assessment of the entire Niger Delta environment, we must applaud the Bayelsa state government for establishing the Commission.
“Having the report is good, particularly for Bayelsa, because the state is arguably the most dastardly polluted in Nigeria. But having the report is one thing. The question is, after the report confirms the obvious, what will be the next steps?
“That is what we want to hear from the Bayelsa Government, from the Federal Government and from the polluting oil companies,” he said.
Similarly, another renowned environmentalist, Mr. Alagoa Morris, welcomed the report.
He observed that though Dickson came up with the setting up of the commission from a very “selfish” disposition, it was nice that a special investigation and report relating to oil industry-induced pollution was becoming a reality; specifically for Bayelsa.
“We are not too excited about it, because the UNEP report on Ogoni has informed Niger Deltans, Nigerians and the world about the negative impacts of crude oil on the environment, livelihood, health and well-being of the people.
“The situation is not expected to be much different, just that the case of Bayelsa would be on a higher scale as per the scope of pollution.
“While that of Ogoni is just about Shell, in Bayelsa we should be looking at the combined pollution caused by Shell, Agip, Chevron, Conoil, etc.
“This is more so, as in 2014, NOSDRA made public that Bayelsa was most polluted,” Morris said.
He explained that while much of the impacted areas in Ogoni were saltwater, it was like 50/50 for saltwater and freshwater environments in Bayelsa that have suffered many years of oil spills.
According to him, there are still so many impacted sites, which have never been cleaned and remediated or any attempt made.
“Taylor Creek, Kolo Creek, Ikebiri Creek, Apoi Creek, Ossiama Creek, Nun River, and Silver River are all freshwater flowing bodies of water that have been polluted by crude oil from Shell and Agip again and again.
“Incidentally, because of government’s neglect, communities settling along these rivers and creeks resort to them for drinking, bathing, washing clothes and kitchen utensils as well as for fermentation of cassava for “fufu.”
“So, our people would suffer much more health implications, as the water-soluble part of crude oil is even more dangerous.”
He, therefore, called for the effective cleanup and remediation of all impacted sites, just like UNEP recommended the cleanup in Ogoni, as well as compensation for pending cases of equipment failure incidents.
“It won’t be out of place to also have recommendations for our communities to be given portable water and better access to good health facilities, plus world-class laboratories in Bayelsa to enable easy testing of materials from impacted sites,” Morris added.