The people and Government of Bayelsa State have urged the Nigeria’s Ministry of Environment to tackle the problem of oil spills arising from the activities of exploration companies in the Niger Delta.
The Governor, Seriake Dickson made the call when a delegation led by the Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed and the Minister of State in the ministry, Ibrahim Jibril paid him a visit in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Southern Nigeria.
Governor Dickson urged the Ministry to convene a stakeholders meeting involving the government, community leaders, youths, security agencies and oil companies to holistically address the operations of multi-national oil companies in the Niger Delta.
According to the Governor, some of the oil firms were exploiting the situation by creating double standards concerning issues of remediation of the environment and payment of compensation for oil spillage arising from their exploration activities.
“All stakeholders have roles to play to address the weaknesses inherent in the nation’s institutions, which some of the oil firms are exploiting to create two standards. One standard that is Nigerian and one that is Niger Delta – where they can pollute everyday and damage everything and suffer no consequences at all”, stated Dickson.
He further said “the other is the international standard, where if there is a spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP will pay billions of dollars and pounds”.
Dickson described the visit of the Minister as a signal of the Nigerian Government’s resolve to tackle issues in the Niger Delta region headlong.
“You really cannot know the Niger Delta until you have visited Bayelsa. This is the epicentre of the Niger Delta with all of its blessings, prospects and challenges. I am delighted that the Federal Government, through this visit, is indicating seriousness”.
“It is a huge problem, but these issues for those of us who are living with them daily, go beyond promises, conferences, talk shops and beautiful press statements. It is our hope and belief that this move is real and signals a genuine commitment to addressing these monumental problems, which have accumulated for decades”, the Governor noted.
While commending the Nigerian Government for initiative to clean up Ogoni land in Rivers State and other parts of the Niger Delta, the Governor pointed out that the problem of protecting the environment was a challenge for the Niger Delta, the country and the global community.
In her remarks, the Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed said her visit to Bayelsa State was in fulfilment of the campaign of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on the cleanup of the Niger Delta.
Mohammed said the delegation visited Rivers State and would launch the cleanup of Ogoni land and the rest of the Niger Delta region in a few weeks.
She said “the cleanup also has to bring dividends to the people. So we hope that whatever work comes out of it, in terms of the clean up, we hope that it is one that will benefit first the people of the Niger Delta”.
The Minister explained that the ministry was working on a policy to hold oil exploration companies accountable for pollution and promised to adopt measures towards ensuring a clean environment.
“We are very keen on the issues that have caused pollution in the past and that we do hold the oil companies to account as well as ensure that the ‘polluter-pays-policy’ is firmly entrenched”, she noted.
She added that part of the Ministry’s mandate involves seeking alternative livelihoods for youths in the Niger Delta through the diversification policy of the Nigerian Government as well as devise economic ways to end gas flaring for sustainable development.