Bayelsa State government has expressed concern over the menace of oil spills and gas flaring perpetrated by multinational oil companies during exploration, saying nine if them had deemed it worthy to address the situation.
A statement issued in Yenagoa on Saturday by Daniel Iworiso-Markson, Chief Press Secretary to Governor Henry Seriake Dickson, said the State government encountered over 1000 oil spills in 2014.
According to him, the Bayelsa State Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice, Kemeasuode Wodu, made the revelation when he led a delegation of Bayelsans to the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, in his office in Abuja.
Wodu explained that, the visit, was among other things, intended to acquaint the Minister with the various challenges the Government and people of the State have been grappling with as a result of the activities of oil companies.
The State, he said, encountered over 1000 oil spills in 2014 alone, without proper re-mediation of impacted areas, while compensation was also not paid to the affected communities, pointing out that, on the 9th of July, 2015 a facility belonging to the Nigerian AGIP oil company on its Clough Creek, Azuzuama pipeline exploded, killing 14 persons, including a staff of the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment.
He said the company hurriedly evacuated the corpses of the affected persons to Port Harcourt, Rivers State and the incident has been covered up by the company, as they have refused to cooperate with the Bayelsa State Government and the Nigerian Oil Spill Detection Response Agency to ensure a proper investigation of the incident.
The Commissioner recalled, with dismay, the massive spill of crude oil into the ocean from an Agip SMB Sirus offshore loading facility around the Brass area on the 27th of November, 2010, which equally caused an extensive damage to the ecosystem, pointing out that, nothing was done by the company and the regulatory body to remedy the situation.
“AGIP has continued to pollute a canal within its facility in Brass despite several representations by the community and state government”, he stated.
Wodi also expressed serious concern over the continued flaring of gas by the various oil companies and its hazardous health implications to the people of the State and called for urgent steps to address the situation.
Kachikwu said the Federal Government would soon convene a forum of stakeholders that will include all the multi-national oil companies, the governments of oil-producing states and the leaders of oil-bearing communities in the Niger Delta to holistically look into the impact of oil exploration on the area.
He assured the Bayelsa delegation that, he will personally undertake a facility tour of the Niger Delta region, along with the chief executives of oil companies, to have a proper assessment of the challenges of oil production and its impact on the general area.
The Minister expressed his commitment to creating a harmonious working relationship between the oil companies and other stakeholders, including the various state governments in the region and the host communities.
The Federal Government, he said, was ready to collaborate with the state governments and the oil companies, with a view to finding lasting solutions to the problems of the region, resulting from oil exploitation and exploration activities.
He said, “There must be adequate collaborative effort between the federal governments, state governments and the oil exploration companies. On this, I am on the same page with you, so, let’s work hand in hand to achieve proper solutions to these problems. We need proper articulation and engagement of these issues.”