Dead fishes littering the Atlantic coastline in Bayelsa and Delta states of the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s main oil and gas region is now a matter of serious concern.
Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Nnimmo Bassey, says he is alarmed by the lack of investigation by both governments and oil industry regulators into the cause of the development.
Director-General of the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Idris Musa, is, however, promising any form of the investigation after the COVID-19 lockdown is lifted. This then implies that the situation does not warrant an emergency.
Apparently piqued, Bassey who holds a National Honours Award of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR) for Environmental Activism said in Yenagoa that consuming the dead fishes could pose a serious health danger to the affected communities.
He observed that the littering of the coastline for more than three weeks may be an indication of increased toxicity of the coastline, saying the development portends danger capable of wiping off fish species and depletion of the biodiversity of the Niger Delta.
“We have been listening to hear exactly what triggered the death of so much fish that washed ashore.
“By this time NOSDRA should have made a definitive statement especially since there are oil platforms not too far off that coast.
“While we wait to hear from those who should know, this is a serious health issue”, Bassey says.
Continuing, he said health and environment ministries at state and national level should be concerned about the health impact on the communities and the wider region of people, who consume the obviously poisoned fish.
According to Bassey, “some stories we hear is that some toxic wastes may have been dumped into the sea by oil company operators. If that is found to be true, such a company should be held responsible for endangering the health of the people and for ecological damage and destruction of the people’s livelihood.
“This matter should not be swept under the carpet or locked away because we are focusing attention on the coronavirus pandemic. The dead fish are smoking guns of a serious crime.”
Residents along Foropa, Sangana axis of the Atlantic coastline in Bayelsa have been reporting of sighting dead fishes littering the shoreline, since the middle of March.
Some of the residents said the occurrence was noticed since March 15 and had yet to abate fueling fears of pollution of the country’s territorial waters by toxic substances.
A forum of Community Development Committees (CDC), hosts to Chevron oilfields in Bayelsa had appealed to the federal and state government to check the impact of suspected toxic pollution across the Atlantic coastline.
They said that the pollution was a threat to the predominantly fishing settlement and caused hardship to the host communities.
The forum led by its Chairman, Patrick Ekubo, and Secretary Biraladei Brisibe Wuka, said the call became imperative as the oil firms operating in the area had shown no concern.
While they are urging NOSDRA to immediately constitute a joint investigation team to ascertain the cause of the toxic pollution that has endangered their lives, Wuka said the strange increased toxicity of the Atlantic Ocean is causing concerns for their health.
The communities, Koluama, Ekeni, Ezetu, Foropa Fishtown and Sangana in Brass and Southern Ijaw Local council area of Bayelsa want NOSDRA to wrap up the probe within 21 days or risk a total shutdown of oil facilities in the area.
However, Chevron, an American oil giant which operates oilfields near the communities in a response to requests for reaction says there are no leaks from its facilities in the area.
Its General Manager – Policy, Government and Public Affairs, Esimaje Brikinn, has denied any links with the alleged pollution with the operations of the oil corporation.
“There has not been any chemical release from any of our facilities”, Chevron says.