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Bayelsa: Ijaw Stakeholders Want Action On Panel Report As About 16,000 Infants Die From Oil Spill In One Month

In addition to demanding action from the Bayelsa State Government, the coalition puts forward several supporting actions to address the environmental crisis.

By Johnson Atoukudu:

A group of Ijaw interest organizations and other stakeholders in the environmental sector have demanded immediate action on the recommendations outlined in the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission (BSOEC) report. During a joint press conference at the Muson Centre in Lagos State, the coalition urged the Nigerian government to demonstrate its commitment to taking action rather than engaging in endless discussions, thereby showing the international environmental community its dedication.

The stakeholders involved in this demand are: Efiye Bribena, Secretary of the Ijaw Elders Forum (IEF) in Lagos; Ben Okoro, Moderator of the Ijaw Nation Forum; Amagbe Kentebe, Chairman of the Embasara Foundation’s Board of Trustees (BoT); Annkio Briggs, Chairperson of Ijaw Women Connect (IWC) BoT; Pattison Boleigha, President of the Ijaw Professionals Association (IPA) in Lagos; Iniruo Wills, President of the Homeland Chapter of Ijaw Professionals Association (IPA); Prof. Monday Selle Gold, President of the Ijaw Diaspora Council (IDC); Alagoa Morris, Programme Manager/Head of Era Niger Delta Resource Centre in Yenagoa; Kemedengiyefa Opia, Chairman of the Bayelsa NGOs’ Forum; and Lanre Suraju, Chairman of the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA).

The demand stems from the release of a report titled “Environmental Genocide: The Human and Environmental Cost of Big Oil in Bayelsa, Nigeria” on May 16, 2023. Chaired by Lord John Sentamu, a member of the UK House of Lords and former Archbishop of York, the multinational panel conducted a thorough investigation into the ecological devastation caused by the oil and gas industry in Bayelsa State over the past five decades.

The report presents alarming statistics, such as the spilling of approximately 110-165 million gallons of crude oil, which is equivalent to 10-15 times the volume of the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, resulting in devastation along the Alaskan coastline. It also reveals that toxic contaminants, including chromium, have been found in groundwater at levels surpassing the safety limit set by the World Health Organization. Furthermore, the report highlights the dire consequences for human life, with an estimated 16,000 infants dying within a month of birth due to pre-natal exposure to oil spills. These findings suggest an environmental genocide, posing a threat to the Ijaw indigenous nationality and the region’s physical integrity.

While acknowledging the commission’s comprehensive investigation and the Bayelsa State Government for initiating the report, the coalition emphasizes the urgent need for the report’s recommendations to be faithfully implemented. They call upon the Bayelsa State Government and the President of Nigeria to take immediate action to address the environmental crisis and hold the responsible oil companies accountable for the pollution. The coalition expresses disappointment in the state government’s lack of significant action in combating the ongoing devastation caused by oil spills and environmental breaches. Mere speeches and promises are deemed inadequate, and the government is urged to demonstrate its commitment through tangible actions and policies that effectively combat pollution and protect affected communities.

In addition to demanding action from the Bayelsa State Government, the coalition puts forward several supporting actions to address the environmental crisis. These include the establishment of a Niger Delta-wide Environmental Remediation Programme, imposing sanctions on repeat offenders of environmental breaches, and allocating a percentage of Bayelsa State’s revenues to an Environmental Recovery Fund.

The coalition extends an invitation to all individuals and organizations concerned about the environmental crisis in Bayelsa State to join their cause and contribute to the efforts of restoring and protecting the region. They stress the importance of prompt and decisive action to ensure the well-being of affected communities and future generations.

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