The Coalition of Ijaw Interest Groups has demanded speedy implementation of the report of the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission (BSOEC) released on 16 May 2023 which shows that Bayelsa is the most polluted state in NIgeria.
The Report titled “ENVIRONMENTAL GENOCIDE: The Human and Environmental Cost of Big Oil in Bayelsa, Nigeria”, revealed that about 110-165 million gallons of crude oil have spilled in the State over the last 50 years, amounting to 10-15 times the volume of the Exxon Valdez spill (11 million gallons) that devastated the Alaskan coastline in 1989.
It reports that, for the State’s population, currently projected at about 2.5m, the cumulative spill volume translates to each resident suffering an average share of one and half barrels of oil spilled, with the attendant impact. In some locations, toxic contaminants such as chromium are present in the groundwater over 1,000 (one thousand) times the World Health Organization’s limit for safety.
In addition to the alarming data for gas flaring in the State, the report also quotes research that puts at 16,000 the number of infants killed by pre-natal exposure to oil spills within a month of birth. These indices of pathology are a threat to the continued existence of the Ijaw indigenous nationality and the physical integrity of our homeland, and could therefore provoke any affected population into self-help where the governments, regulators and justice systems that should secure and rescue them have either failed them or in some cases appear to be in collaboration with the genocidal polluters.
At a press conference held at the MUSON Center in Lagos, the group commended the Commission for a job well done, acknowledging that the Report is a step in the right direction and an opportunity for useful insights to the destruction of the ecosystem in the region. They demanded urgent and faithful implementation of its recommendations to achieve the intended objectives. They charged the state government to now move with the required sense of urgency, mindful that stakeholders in the state will consider the vigour, speed and resourcefulness with which the government responds to the recommendations of this report.
They also made the following recommendations:
- An immediate formal demand to the President by the State Government, to immediately promulgate a Niger Delta-wide Environmental Remediation Programme. Several environmentally damaged communities due to oil and gas exploration activities such as Polobubo (formerly Tsekelewu) in the west Niger Delta abound.
- Impose stern sanctions within the State’s power, including revocation of rights of way and land leases over operational sites of repeated or egregious environmental breaches.
- Commit to dedicating 5-10% of Bayelsa State’s revenues to invest as part of the Environmental Recovery Fund proposed in the BSOEC Report, to redress its contributory responsibility for the pollution plague by reason of the state government’s failure in acting within its powers all these years to stop the scourge and safeguard its communities, environment and people. The State will reap commensurately and multidimensionally from the fruits of the recovery fund.
- Formally institute a strong call or global campaign on shareholders of Shell, ENI/Agip, Chevron and other operators and/or their parent companies listed on the London, New York and European Stock Exchanges to demand for verifiable comprehensive reports on their environmental pollution footprint in the Niger Delta and remedial measures taken, including the environmental status of their oilfields at the time of divesting them to Nigerian private operators. Failing that, shareholders should be systematically persuaded to divest shares in these companies, as their over 60-year track record in Nigeria renders their shareholders partakers in the business of blood oil. Their home governments should as well be officially engaged to trigger investigations and sanctions on these corporations.
- .Pending consummation of ongoing efforts at an international convention on ecocide, file a formal complaint with the Office of the Prosecutor in the International Criminal Court to investigate the unprecedented ecocide in Bayelsa State as environmental genocide or a continual crime against humanity. This is urgent because successive Nigerian Presidents and Ministers of Petroleum and Environment, along with the regulations.