An environmentalist, Dr Nnimmo Bassey, has urged oil firms in the Niger Delta to clean up polluted onshore sites before moving their activities offshore.
Bassey made the call in Yenegoa, Bayelsa State, on Friday, June 4, 2021 at an oilfield dialogue with the theme, “Building Community Resilience against Fossils Extraction.”
The event, which was organsied by Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) for oil communities in Bayelsa, was held at the banks of Taylor Creek, Agbia, Yenagoa.
The environmentalist noted that the Niger Delta region enjoyed clean and natural environment before the discovery of oil about 60 years ago.
He said oil firms’ gradual shift to offshore posed greater danger to the fishing vocation of people.
Bassey said Niger Delta’s rich biodiversity with freshwater and marine ecosystems such as rivers, lakes, streams and creeks had become more threatened.
According to him, no fewer than six million persons may be pushed out of their fishing occupation due to the activities of the oil firms in the region.
“It is of national interest to protect the artisanal fishing industry. It is, however, regrettable that most fresh water bodies have been lost to oil pollution,” he said.
Bassey further expressed worries that many international oil firms were already divesting from their onshore assets and moving their operations offshore.
“Their claim is that the Niger Delta no longer suits their business model. They are trying to avoid responsibilities arising from their environmental misbehaviour.
“They are leaving after sucking the region dry and destroying the environment, if this pollution is replicated offshore, the impact will be very tragic,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, Mrs Alas Talani described the damage on the freshwater bodies as colossal.
“I started fishing at the Taylor Creeks as a young girl, I got married and continued fishing with my husband, we used to have bountiful catches.
“Fishing was rewarding before the oil pipelines were laid, all one needed was to throw the net and tie it across, a few hours later you have a full net.
“Things have changed, as the oil leaks continued, fishing activities here at Taylor Creeks produced little or no catch, we are endangered,” Talani said.
Also speaking, Chief Washington Odoyibo, a community leader and fisherman, accused oil firms of indulging in unfriendly environmental practices.
“Oil spills have rendered us unproductive, the pollutions from oil exploration and production did not also spare our farmlands,” Odoyibo said.
In her contribution, Chief Ayibakoro Warder, a woman leader, commended HOMEF for organising the dialogue, describing it as well intended.
“We commend you for organsing this event, it has educated us on how to deal with the environmental challenges that have been affecting us for a long time.
“The call for the cleanup of polluted sites on the land and the need for stiffer penalties to conserve the environment is in order,” Warder said.
By Nathan Nwakamma