*Of Oil Firms’ Disdain for N/Delta and Military Intervention*
*By Abdulsalam Mahmud,*
From Rivers to Akwa Ibom, down to Edo and Bayelsa, with the rest oil-producing States, there are several oil firms operating in the Niger Delta region. Sadly, their presence, which suppose to be a blessing, appears to be a curse.
It is a common knowledge that communities in Nigeria’s oil-producing States, have, since time immemorial, suffered various kinds of environmental degradation.
A recent study estimated that, in 2012 alone, 16,000 babies died within the first month of their birth, because of devastating oil pollution in the Niger Delta.
Across the Niger Delta, about 40 million litres of oil are spilled both on communities’ lands and waters, every year.
The contamination of air, land and water in the Niger Delta is evidenced in the damage to residents’ health and livelihoods.
With most Niger Delta’s farmlands cloaked in oil, the devastating contamination of crops and people’s exposure to high levels of heavy metals such as chromium, lead and mercury, are things that can neither be described nor quantified.
At a point, Shell, an international oil companies operating in Nigeria, said oil spills due to crude oil theft, illegal refining and sabotage cause the most environmental damage in the Niger Delta.
“Our aim is to run a responsible business, which means operating safely without harm to people and protecting the local environment. In Nigeria, we operate to the same standards as other Shell-operated ventures globally. No spill is acceptable, and we work hard to prevent them,” Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, however said, in a statement.
“We work closely with the regulators, local communities and other stakeholders to address this challenging issue and, irrespective of cause, we clean up and remediate areas affected by spills from our facilities or pipeline network,” the statement added.
The oil exploration giant said that in the case of operational spills, compensation is paid (by them) to people and communities impacted.
The company says its efforts to clean up areas have at times been hampered by instability, as its employees are unable to safely access affected areas.
The Bayelsa State Governor, Sen. Duoye Diri, however has come out to openly controverts Shell’s claims.
A worried Diri condemned what he described as unfair collusion of oil firms and regulatory bodies against the interest of host communities in the Niger Delta.
He spoke when he received Gen. Leo Irabor, Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, who undertook an operational visit to the South South state.
It is clearly a case of sheer insensitivity to the plights of the Niger Delta for oil firms and their regulatory bodies to be working in cahoot, with a view to sabotaging the interest of communities in Diri’s Bayelsa.
One thing that was responsible for the activities of militancy, which peaked, during the administration of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, is perceived injustice and marginalisation of Niger Delta and her people by the government.
For a region that is incredibly blessed with a natural resource that drives the Nigerian economy, the last thing one expects to hear is lack of portable water, good roads, functional schools and hospitals, among other basic amenities and life necessities.
That, however, is what most Nigerians, and even the world, know about Nigeria’s Niger Delta.
Insecurity is pervasive in the country. But according to Governor Diri, part of the security challenges in host communities were as a result of the injustice and unfair treatment by oil companies aided by the regulatory authorities.
Diri, cited last November’s month-long oil and gas spillage in Nembe Council of the state from AITEO Exploration and Production Limited facility, which eventually resulted in litigation due to the manner the company and regulatory bodies treated the impacted communities.
The Governor, said the disposition of his government towards affected host communities prevented another flashpoint of conflict between them, AITEO and security agencies.
He said: “For us as a government, from the moment we assumed office, we have always preached peace and security and looking for constitutional, legal and legitimate ways of addressing the injustices over the years in our state.
“A case in point was the AITEO oil spill. That facility was said to be unproductive, was not decommissioned and it spewed oil for over a month, which was the first of its kind in the history of oil exploration in this country.
“At the end of the day, a potential source of conflict was during the joint inspection visit, which has caused a rift between the state government, AITEO and supervisors from the oil and gas sector.”
Diri, called for synergy between the state and the military and recalled that it was the focus when the CDS invited governors to Abuja to discuss how to ensure uninterrupted oil and gas production in Niger Delta when he was newly appointed.
The Bayelsa helmsman stressed that his administration was willing to collaborate, synergize and strengthen existing relationships between the state and security agencies.
Earlier, Irabor, said he and his team were in Bayelsa because they recognised the crucial role of the state government in accommodating and strengthening the operations of the country’s armed forces.
He added that the visit was also to solidify the partnership between both parties, particularly in combating oil theft, kidnapping and destruction of oil facilities across the state.
The Defence Chief, noted that any form of destruction of the nation’s oil investment is a direct attack on the future of the country’s oil wealth, and thanked Diri for his unrelenting support to the military and other security agencies.
For as long as those Diri is lamenting their sinister activities borrow a new leaf, then, one can take to the bank, the ASSURANCE that Gen. Irabor may, after all, not need to deploy a military force to permanently rein them in.
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