An environmental expert and rights activist in the Niger Delta, Alagoa Morris, has expressed dissatisfaction over the level of sensitisation on climate change education in the Niger Delta, warning that it would be catastrophic should the trend persist.
Morris says there is low sensitisation in the region especially at the grassroots level, adding that workshops and seminars should be conducted to campaign against the burning of economic trees, raffia palm, timbers as well as other valuable components in the forest.
“The issue of climate change, apart from discussing it in workshops and seminars, I don’t think we have gotten enough sensitisation especially at the grassroots otherwise we wouldn’t allow the incessant destruction of our ecosystem especially burning of forest; when there is an oil spill, sometimes agents of some unscrupulous persons are used by some oil companies to go and set fire on such places and burn off a whole forest of economic trees,”’ he says.
Alagoa Morris, who is also the Project Officer, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria(ERA/FoEN), notes that when all the vegetation are cleared out it would become bare and empty causing extreme heat.
He urged the governors especially those of the Niger Delta region states as well as the civil society to embark on serious sensitiaation programmes on the need to plant trees and stop activities of bush burning and gas flaring in the different communities in the region.
According to Morris, “We have continued to flare the gas; one major characteristic of Bayelsa State is that as you enter from Igbogene down to Government House, you won’t see trees. We should not remove these trees from our environment, we should leave them as if we are still in the Garden of Eden, where you hear the parrots talking.”
He added that oil companies in the region would be held responsible and accountable for their continued gas flaring and setting spills sites on fire and also the local refineries which he said generates smokes from those areas which worsens the level of pollution.
‘We should encourage people not to be burning bush, if we have enough sensitisation from the community people will not be burning anyhow; they would not be clearing for nothing and the oil companies should be held responsible and accountable,” Morris lamented.
The Niger Delta region cuts across nine states in southern Nigeria which include Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo ,Ondo and River states. The region has emerged as one of the most ecologically sensitive regions in Nigeria. Oil and sas are the main source of revenue from the region, accounting for about 97 perecnt of the country’s total export.
Oil was first discovered in the region in 1958 in a tiny community known as Oloibiri in present day Bayelsa State and, since the early 1970s, oil has dominated the country’s economy. The region spans over 20,000 square kilometres and it has been described as the largest wetland in Africa and among the three largest in the world. About 2,370 square kilometres of the Niger Delta area consist of rivers, creeks and estuaries. Stagnant swamp covers about 8,600 square kilometres.
By Oyins Egrenbindo