The disclosure that oil has been discovered in commercial quantity in the Lagos offshore, within the confines of the Dahomey Basin, has been greeted with mixed feelings.
Activist and President, Friends of the Earth International, Nnimmo Bassey, made this known recently at a workshop in Lagos titled: “Oil in Lagos: What is in it for the planet?”
Bassey said the discovery and exploration for oil in the Niger Delta area for decades has made the region the most polluted area in the world due to countless oil spills that have not been cleaned up.
He that exploring oil in Lagos would boost the economy of the state but the environmental and socio-economic consequences are far more damaging.
Struggle for resource control from oil exploration has brought about the nation’s economy solely dependent on oil with other key sectors like agriculture being neglected, he lamented, adding that it has likewise led to increased level of violence and insecurity like kidnapping, communal crisis, oil spillage resulting in loss of bio-diversity and damage to arable land.
According to Bassey, it is better to leave the oil in the soil as demand for fossil fuel is one of the key factors responsible for global carbon emission that causes climate change.
Even though the world cannot imagine living without oil, but they have to because oil is not renewable, he concluded.
Representative of the Commissioner for the Ministry of Environment, Titi Fadipe, said oil discovery in Lagos would further boost its economy and create job opportunities for the unemployed.
Fadipe said all the assessments and policies needed to ensure that oil exploration positively impacts the environment would be undertaken by the state government.
Another speaker, Dr. Abiodun Olusogo from the Lagos State Marginalised Communities Forum, said oil exploration in Lagos would further increase the number of displaced and marginalised persons. Presently, a lot of indigenous Lagosians are being displaced due to land grabbing by the rich and powerful without proper consultation with the people. The rights of indigenous people is fundamental if the Lagos State Government plans to explore oil, he added.
Programme Director of Bailiff Africa and organisers of the workshop, Funmi Oyatogun, stressed that the workshop was geared towards increasing awareness among Lagosians on the discovery of oil in commercial quantity in the state.
Oyatogun pointed out that Bailiff Africa is concerned about the participation of the youths in environmental matters, lending credence to the fact that majority of the participants are young people.
“Around the world young people are becoming more participatory in governance and Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind. Again, oil exploration is an environmental issue that scientists have proven is responsible for climate change and we want to live in a friendly environment. We therefore should be concerned about how government policies made today will impact on us tomorrow,” she stated.
A participant, Peter Sohe, who hails from Badagry, disclosed that gas flaring in the area is affecting the health of the people as well as their livelihood as fishing in some areas of Badagry has reduced.
He urged Lagosians not to be too excited about oil discovery in the state as a visit to the area where gas is being flared in Badagry will make them come to terms with the environmental impact of oil exploration.
By Tina Armstrong-Ogbonna