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Environment Degradation: N’Delta on Bloody Slap, says HOMEF

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Environment Degradation: N’Delta on Bloody Slap, says HOMEF

By Stella Peters

The Executive Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Dr Nnimmo Bassey, has described the Niger Delta region as an undeniable sacrificial zone whose degraded situation must be realigned for the well-being of the people and the environment.

He said, “the region has been placed on a bloody slab and visited with unrelenting abuse by the forces of extractivism, internal colonialism, and dispossession, stressing that “It has been recklessly exploited right from the time of slavery to the time of colonial monopolies and current realities where it is raped for the sake of keeping a waning petroleum civilization on life support.”

Dr. Bassey, who spoke in his welcome address at the Third Niger Delta Socio-Ecological Alternatives Convergence (NDAC) organized by HOMEF on Wednesday in Abuja, explained that the programme does not only highlight the vast socio-ecological challenges of the region but also proposes apparent pathways out of the quagmire.

He said, “The convergence notes the highly negative impacts of oil and gas exploitation in the region, as well as the massive deforestation and diverse erosion of both the land and the coastlines.

“While the region is made up of a complex ecosystem of streams, rivers, creeks, and the sea, potable water is a rarity due to incessant oil spills and the dumping of hazardous industrial wastes into both surface and groundwater.”

HOMEF executive director stated that the manifesto foregrounded the struggle against the reckless pattern of crooked divestment schemed and allegedly promoted by international oil companies (IOCs).

He said, “The plans by the international oil companies to sell off their onshore fields to domestic oil companies and either leave Nigeria or move into deep offshore locations have been roundly condemned as a ploy to escape responsibility and accountability for close to 70 years of unbelievably horrendous pollution of the territory through oil spills, hazardous produced water, toxic wastes, and gas flaring.”

He, however, urged the National Assembly to act on existential consequences for the people and the territory, saying that the communities cannot afford to be left stranded in the toxic brew bequeathed to them by the oil companies.

The stakeholders also called for the remediation and restoration of all impacted territories and for payment of reparations for the damage suffered in past years.

According to Bassey “We should point out here that even the first oil wells drilled, exploited from the 1950s and abandoned in the 1970s, are still polluting the environment because there has not been a proper abandonment and decommissioning process”.

Highlighting the manifesto, Me Ken Henshaw observed that the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) is inadequate in providing solutions to the ecological and environmental challenges of the Niger Delta region.

Henshaw noted that while oil has been extracted from the region for over 64 years, the people in the area have been impoverished, less developed, and more unsecured.

He said the communities in the area that have borne the brunt of oil extraction and Nigeria’s oil economy for over six decades deserve urgent and immediate attention.

But he regretted that they are made to pay for offenses not committed to denying them the right of benefit from the 3 percent as provided by PIA.

Henshaw, the Executive Director of We The People, said: “We noted that the PIA is inadequate in addressing the challenges of our region. In prayer, not the provisions on community responsibility for protecting oil infrastructures, which effectively criminalizes our people, provisions on gas flaring, which effectively permits the practice, provisions on establishing the host communities funds, which give primacy to oil companies and fail to capture the interest and concerns of our communities”.

Chairman of the convergence, King Bubaraye Dakolo, noted the need for collective voices to bring about changes in the region. He said, “We must have our environment restored. The country has benefited hugely from the resources gotten from the Niger Delta, but the region has not felt the positive of the benefits of the natural resources.”

He described the PIA as an anti-people law brought against the Niger Deltans. “A law that criminalizes the host-producing communities, we are going to ensure the right thing is done; they should clean and restore the environment before divesting,” Dakolo added.

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