The Bayelsa State Government has announced plans to set up a task force to protect its environment by checking activities of illegal crude oil refineries in the state.
Gov. Seriake Dickson announced this at the commemoration of this year’s World Environment Day, a statement by Mr Francis Agbo, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, said on Thursday, June 7, 2018.
Dickson said that his administration had engaged the services of internationally acclaimed forensic experts to compile the effects of prolonged oil pollution on the environment and health of the people in the state.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that thousands of illicit artisanal refineries located in oil communities in Bayelsa operated and discharged their waste in ways that pollute the environment.
Dickson observed that decades of oil pollution and gas flaring in the state and the Niger Delta had resulted in rising cases of health hazards, thereby shortening the people’s lifespan.
“The reports I have received from the experts describe the scenario as saddening and frightening. In due course, this report will be made public soon.
“I am hereby calling for collective efforts to reclaim and remediate the environment,’’ the governor said.
He called on residents to hearken to the call for protection of the environment, especially in the Niger Delta.
“The environment has been under severe, sustained and brutal attack by forces that we do not control.
“These forces have not only invaded the land and expropriated their property but are now threatening to exterminate the people.
“A lot of actions will be taken and we will mobilise local and international opinions on this.
“There are legislative measures that I will also call on the state assembly to undertake,’’ Dickson said.
The governor lamented the exclusion of the people from the oil and gas industry, and decried the proliferation of illegal refineries which degraded the environment and destroyed lives in the state.
He said there was no justification for illegal refineries, stressing that doing so would amount to further degrading and polluting the already compromised environment.
Dickson assured that the state government would invest in ways to reduce the use of plastic products.
He disclosed that the theme for the 2018 World Environment Day had been amended to read: “Bayelsa, Our Lives, Our Future’’ to underscore the importance of the day to the Bayelsa people.
“I fully support the indigenisation of the oil and gas industry. This is the only country in the world where, the Niger Delta, that is the source of crude is not playing host to all the refineries.
“So, there is a case to be made for economic inclusion and I am an advocate for that and I owe no apology to anyone. Whether this will take the form of oil mining leases awarded to our people, why not?
“Whether this will mean involving them in terms of citing refineries and letting them run businesses in that sector, why not?
“Whether this will mean employing our youths, who are qualified in the oil and gas industry that is ours, why not?
“The point that I am making is that this time that your environment is a ticking time bomb is not the time to resort to self-help by breaking into pipelines and making sure that more pollution takes place.
“All of us should be soldiers for the protection of the environment,’’ Dickson urged.