A Niger Delta Environmental Advocacy group on Friday, November 26, 2021 commenced training of hundreds of fishermen on Coastal Environmental Monitoring and Advocacy, in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital.
The capacity building programme is coming amidst ongoing oil and gas leaks at Aiteo’s oilfields in Nembe and Conoil’s oil block at Sangana in neighbouring Brass Local Government
The group, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), drew participants from oil bearing communities across Bayelsa to the event.
Addressing participants, comprising fishermen, fisherwomen and workers in the fish processing value chain, Mr Cadmus Ateke-Enade of HOMEF noted that pollution from oil leaks posed great danger to public health.
Ateke-Enade said the environmental rights group aimed to strengthen the knowledge base of participants to engage in evidence based monitoring of the environment by collecting data in an empirical way.
He said that beyond health factors, the pollution from oil and gas was a threat to the traditional fishing occupation of coastal communities in the Niger Delta region.
Ateke-Enade, who spoke on the overview and sources of pollution, urged the participants to share experiences with participants from other communities to safeguard the environment.
Also, Mr Alagoa Morris, a resource person who spoke on monitoring techniques, urged the participants to harness the potentials on their smartphones which were embedded with valuable features.
Morris noted that smartphones and other inexpensive devices had inbuilt capacity to indicate the precise location and coordinates of pollution incident sites which were required to give credibility to the report.
He explained that the ongoing leak at Aiteo’s Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29 was made public by a video footage shot by a fisherman who shared the incident on social media.
Morris commended HOMEF for its advocacy for the environment by conducting the second training within the year in Bayelsa in addition to similar campaigns in other states of the Niger Delta region.
He noted that the training was timely as it coincided with two ongoing pollution incidents in two adjoining local government areas in Bayelsa.
A participant from Koluama 1 in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, Chief Arthur Frank, shared his experience.
Frank noted that the Funiwa fields where the rig blow-out of 2012 occurred were still releasing gas bubbles intermittently.
Also, Mr Ikonikumo Noel, Chairman, United Fishing Union of Sangana, lamented that the ongoing gas leak at Conoil’s facility near Sangana had crippled fishing with oil workers evacuated from the platform.
“The leakage and pollution has polluted the waters and made the environment too toxic for fishes to survive and we were forced to leave the waters.
“Meanwhile, the company evacuated oil workers and left the community to grapple with the situation,” Noel disclosed.
By Nathan Nwakamma