By Chiemeka Green, Yenagoa
The Archbishop of York and Chairman Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission, Dr. John Sentamu presenting the Interim Report to the Bayelsa State Governor, Henry Seriake Dickson
The Chairman of the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission (BSOEC) and Archbishop of York, Most Reverend & Right Honourable Dr. John Sentamu, has accused Shell, AGIP and other oil companies operating in the Niger Delta region of heaping environmental devastation upon the people while ignoring their pleas for assistance.
He further estimated that the consequences of oil spills may kill around 16,000 infants in the Niger Delta annually within their first month of life, describing the activities of the multinational oil companies as “nothing less than environmental genocide”.
Dr. Sentamu made this disclosure during the presentation of the Commission’s Interim Report to the Bayelsa State Governor, Henry Seriake Dickson on Friday, November 1, 2019 at the Golden Tulip Hotel, Gloryland Resort in Yenagoa, the state capital.
The Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission, working alongside industry and environmental experts were mandated to investigate the impact of oil spills and the environmental and social damage done by International Oil Companies operating in Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta.
Speaking at the launch of the Interim report in Nigeria, Dr. Sentamu said:
“Roughly 40m litres of oil wind up in the Niger Delta annually, eight times more than is spilled in America, the world’s biggest producer and consumer.”
“Early analysis shows that if Bayelsa’s share of oil spilled is the same as oil pumped, as much as a barrel of oil may have been spilled for every man, woman and child living in Bayelsa today. It is estimated that the consequences of oil spills may kill around 16,000 infants in the Niger Delta annually within their first month of life.”
“Our environment knows no bounds. We are all global citizens. It would never be acceptable to cause such environmental devastation in Europe or America, and accordingly it should never be acceptable in Africa or South America.”
“Oil companies today have a moral obligation to uphold the same high environmental standards, wherever they operate, anything less is to knowingly continue an environmental genocide against the people of places like the Niger Delta.”
The Governor of Bayelsa State, Henry Seriake Dickson, while receiving the report from Dr. Sentamu said, “I am grateful to the Archbishop, the Commissioners and the global community for highlighting this long-held injustice on the world stage. The Commission has finally provided a voice for every man, woman and child in Bayelsa that has struggled for over half a century with what can be deemed as environmental terrorism.
“I established the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission to hold oil companies to account, to shift the mindset of multinationals operating in Bayelsa and to inspire a global sustainable change. Everyone deserves the same rights, whether you live in Nigeria or in the USA.
“Since the first oil well was drilled in Nigeria by Shell in Bayelsa in 1956, Bayelsans have rarely benefitted from oil. We have faced the destruction of our environment, rivers filled with oil, our farmlands destroyed, and a host of health problems including the ongoing deaths of our children.
“I’m grateful to the Archbishop for sharing what he has seen with the world. We, the people of Bayelsa and the world wait to hear the steps the oil companies will take in Nigeria and around the world to address this kind of environmental injustice and we eagerly anticipate the recommendations of the Commission in 2020.”
The Commission is chaired by the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu and Commissioners which include Baroness Valerie Amos, former Under Secretary General at the United Nations, and John Kufuor, former President of Ghana, as well as a number of high-level experts including pre-eminent expert on the Niger Delta, Professor Michael Watts.