The Bayelsa State Government has announced its readiness to support the commencement of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study of communities devastated by oil pollution in Bayelsa and other states in the Niger Delta region by the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources with the donation of an office complex in the state capital.
The assessment of the impacted communities of Bayelsa State and others is expected to be conducted under the National Hydro Carbon Restoration Project (HYPREP) led by the National Coordinator, Joy Nunien-Okunnu.
Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Rear Admiral John Jonah, while speaking in Yenagoa during a call on him by top members of the HYPREP which also coincided with the handing over of the office complex, said though the state government and the people have longed for a detailed assessment of the environmental effects of the incessant pollution caused by oil spillages and illegal oil bunkering in communities in the state, the decision by the Petroleum Ministry to set up the HYPREP is timely and will put an end to controversies between communities and oil multinationals over spillages and pollution.
According to Jonah, aerial tour of impacted communities showed massive oil spillages on waters and farmlands in various Bayelsa Communities. “The Bayelsa environment is highly polluted with lots of oil residue on waters and farmlands. They are mostly caused by spillages and illegal oil bunkering. We drink from these rivers. But when you fly helicopter over the sites, you will see heavy layers of oil. The resultant effect won’t be felt now but later with generations coming behind.”
Nunieh-Okunnu explained that the decision of the Federal Government, through the office of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, to conduct a detailed and professional impact assessment of devastated communities in the Niger Delta was based on the need to redress some past anomaly and improve the socio-economic and health standards of indigenes of oil producing communities.
Her words: “The assessment to be conducted by experts from all over the world is to ensure that the environmental rights of indigenes of oil bearing communities are protected and improved upon. The assessment will cover the socio-economic and health lifestyle of the people. We will work directly with communities along the land and the coastal shorelines. We will ensure the re-vegetation of the mangrove of the impacted communities.
Similarly the Bayelsa State Government has expressed concern over the 2013 Nigeria Meteorological Agency’s (NIMET) weather forecast and stressed the need for residents to take precautionary measures towards preventing a recurrence of the 2012 ugly experience.
The NIMET in its forecast, predicted heavy rain in 2013, higher than the one experienced last year, which rendered some families in some states of the federation homeless while farmlands were washed away. Bayelsa State was severely affected. Disturbed by this trend and in order to avert a recurrence of such experience despite the prediction of NIMET, the state governor, Seriake Dickson, met with the leaders and members of relevant committees including Post Flood Management Committee and Infrastructure Advisory Committee (PFMCIAC) set up in the wake of the crisis to nip in the bud the likely occurrence of such incident in the state.
Dickson called on the committees represented at the meeting to carry out more technical assessment to identify the flood level, saying this would assist his administration in ascertaining the foundation height of public infrastructures.
“We are here to discuss the subject matter that is of interest to the people of our state. We are all aware of the devastating effects of the flood last year on our state and we have reason as a result of the magnitude of the damage and destruction that we suffered to set up a committee of our very best hands to come up with ways and means of effectively managing the aftermath of the flood in several ways.
“I am aware that the committee has swung into action. Let me on behalf of a grateful state government thank its chairman and members of the committee for their sacrifices and contributions. I summon this meeting firstly to have a report of how far the two committees have gone and their work plan. We have cause to summon this meeting based on the weather forecast for 2013 and knowing what we suffered in this state last year when we were notified about the weather forecast by NIMET.
“The forecast reveals that the rain fall projection by this year will be higher than that of last year with the likelihood of flood, I got very worried as your governor, and this is the reason why we gather here to see that we do everything possible to prevent a recurrence of last year’s flooding that ravaged the entire state. It has already started raining and that is worrisome. You are aware that the entire state has been turned into a construction site. We are not through yet. We are very worried with the weather forecast this year,” the governor said.
Meanwhile, the PFMCIAC says about N20 billion is required to solve flooding problems in the state, and stresses the need for government to supply more relief materials such as food and cement to affected communities.
By Oyins Egrenbido