Level of degradation in Bayelsa oil communities unacceptable, says Archbishop of York
After seven months of interactions with over 500 witnesses across dozens of oil bearing communities, the Bayelsa State Oil and Environment Commission, yesterday, pronounced the level of degradation across communities in state as unacceptable.
Presenting what they refer to as a ‘Silent Health Crisis,’ the Archbishop of York, The Most Reverend John Sentamu, described the pollution occasioned by oil exploration and exploitation activities as a slow environmental genocide destroying lives and property in the state.
Sentamu, who is also a member of the British Parliament, faulted the international oil companies operating in the state for failing to uphold the same standards they use elsewhere in the world in the devastated communities of Bayelsa.
The Archbishop made the remarks while presenting an Interim Report as the Chairman of the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission in Yenagoa on Friday. He described what is happening in Bayelsa as ‘an organised theft, regionally and nationally on an unprecedented scale.’He said the multinational oil firms had committed unimaginable level of damage in Bayelsa and it should not be allowed to continue.
Sentamu, who noted that the Commission had spent the past seven months conducting researches in all the eight local government areas of the state, described the level of degradation as serious and lamentable.He said aside losing lives and its ecosystem, the Commission’s findings showed that communities in the state are deprived economically, in addition to lacking access to justice.
While assuring the state government of his commitment to telling the Bayelsa story to the outside world, Sentamu stressed the need for collective action against the excesses of oil companies in the area.He said: “Environment knows no national boundaries. We all have responsibility to care for the environment, and it is for this reason I accepted to chair this commission. Oil and gas exploration has had adverse impact on Bayelsa lives, water systems, biodiversity and its people.
“The Commission has spoken to hundreds of people across the eight local government areas of the state on the impact of environmental degradation and the wide ranging effect on the people. I believe that what we have seen amounts to a slow environmental genocide taking place here in Bayelsa, and this has been allowed to go on for over 50 years. Corruption for me is too thin a word to describe what is going on here.
“So, it’s our hope that as a Commission, we can exert increased pressure on multi-national oil companies to operate through the same legal and moral responsibility in Bayelsa State as they do in the UK, US and elsewhere.”In separate remarks, the Secretary, Dr Kathryn Nwajiaku and member of BSODEC, Prof Engobo Emeseh expressed shock at the Commission’s findings.According to them, the people are not only subjected to penury and health challenges, but that their survival is also under threat, as the ecosystem of the area is gradually going into extinction.