Nigeria: Int'l inquiry laments double environmental & social standards by oil companies depending on where they are operating
Author: Mike Odiegwu, The Nation (Nigeria), Published on: 28 April 2019
‘Shock, lamentation as panel probes environmental damage in Bayelsa’ 19 April 2019
This is shocking and totally unacceptable,” Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu thundered as he bent with a plastic bucket to scoop raw crude from a pond. The Primate of England was struck with awe at the environmental pollution staring him in the face as he toured the oil-producing communities in Bayelsa State. He shook his head in disbelief. He was convinced that nobody and no company, no matter how highly placed, will be allowed in England, his home state and other developed economies, to abuse the environment in such manner. In fact, what he sees each time he steps out with his team to visit oil-producing communities is evidence of double standard adopted by oil multinationals. Sentamu’s assignment in Bayelsa is not as easy as he earlier thought. The environmental devastation is unprecedented and unspeakable. He is just scratching the surface. Sentamu is leading an international commission of inquiry to investigate sharp practices of oil multinationals resulting in huge environmental damage in Bayelsa.
…But he may have had a glimpse of the taxing nature of his task when he saw that most of the seats in the council’s chamber were occupied by all stakeholders in the state, including traditional rulers, members of the executive council and members of the state House of Assembly. No seat was vacant. Others, who could not find any seat stood throughout the ceremony without complaints…Sentamu and a few of members of his commission, who were present, did not know that the documentary they watched at executive chamber on damage done to Bayelsa environment by oil multinationals was a tip of the iceberg. They were glued to the grim visuals on the projected screen as they watched…He said the discovery of oil in commercial quantity in Bayelsa in 1956 launched Nigeria into global reckoning but regretted that the status of the country had not translated into expected development in the region. Dickson said: “We know the devastating situation that arises from oil and gas exploration. We know what has been taking place in our communities. We are serious about the issues of protecting our environment as a collective heritage of all humankind.
The governor also appealed to the commission to undertake and receive any scientific or empirical report on the environmental, health, socio-economic and cultural impact of the operations of the companies over the years. Others are to develop a set of informed recommendations that may lead to the development of a new legal framework that ensures accountability and to develop a set of action plan for the development of a healthy environment and appropriate clean up.” Indeed, not knowing what awaited him on the field; Sentamu thanked the governor for the assignment and said the commission was fortunate to have a number of experts as its members. He said: “Oil and gas exploration have had a vast impact on the Niger Delta’s land, water systems and biodiversity. Hearing the impact of the environmental degradation on the people of the Niger Delta has been shocking. I always say that you can judge how healthy a society is by how it treats the most vulnerable members.