A renowned Environmentalist, Dr. Nnimmo Bassey has urged oil firms operating in the Niger Delta to clean up polluted onshore sites before divesting and moving their activities to offshore oilfields.
Bassey spoke on Friday at an oilfield dialogue with the theme, ‘Building Community Resilience against Fossils Extraction’ organised by Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), for oil communities in Bayelsa State.
He lamented the plight of the hitherto clean and natural environment in the Niger Delta region before the discovery of oil some 60 years ago without remediation and noted that the gradual shift by oil firms to offshore posed greater danger to the fishing vocation of Niger Delta people.
Bassey observed that more than 6 million people who are engaged in fishing have their jobs threatened by the oil industry and called on the government to protect the artisanal fishing industry in the region.
The Environmentalist argued that it was worrisome that Shell which discovered oil in commercial quantities in the 1950s in Bayelsa State recently announced further plans to divest from its onshore assets and moved its operations offshore.
“The head of Shell oil company was recently quoted as saying that the Niger Delta no longer suits their business model. On this account, he said they were moving from onshore to the deep waters offshore.
“They are going offshore in order to avoid responsibility for their continued environmental misbehaviour in our communities. They are heading offshore after committing ecocide onshore.
“They are shifting offshore after sucking the land dry and trashing whatever they came across. Now they will go offshore and continue the pollution there. If transnational oil companies replicate their prodigious pollution offshore, the Niger Delta will be totally stranded on both land and sea.
“That is the definition of disaster. Besides shifting pollution offshore, our fishers will face the hazards of security forces cordoning off oil installations and at the same time be confronted by the largely unchecked activities of sea pirates,” Bassey said.
In her contribution to the dialogue, Mrs. Alas Talani who is in her 70s noted that she started fishing at the Taylor creeks as a young girl before she married a fisherman and they had bountiful catches.
“Looking back to my younger years before the oil pipelines were laid, it was very rewarding because all you need is to throw your net and tie it across and in a few hours, you have a full net but when they crossed the pipes and oil began to pour into the waters, the catch has dwindled.
“And when the oil companies even pay compensation for oil spills, the people they send to pay the money divert it and the money never gets to the impacted fishermen. As the oil leaks continued the fishing here at Taylor Creeks produced very little catch so we moved to the sea”, she lamented.
Also, Chief Washington Odoyibo, a community leader and fisherman who operates at Ikarama axis of the Taylor creek in Yenagoa condemned the unsustainable environmental practices of International Oil firms operating in the area.
He said that frequent oil spills had rendered the predominantly fishing people of the area unproductive, adding that the pollutions from oil exploration and production did not spare their farmlands.
In her contribution, Chief Ayibakoro Warder, a woman leader at Biseni in Bayelsa applauded HOMEF for the dialogue and training of oil community people on monitoring their environment.