Eight years after National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) declared Bayelsa State the oil-polluted state in the Niger Delta, Environmental Rights Action (ERA), an environmental rights advocacy group, is pushing for a state of emergency in the area.
Bayelsa, the home state of former President Goodluck Jonathan, was pronounced as the most polluted by NOSDRA in 2014.
NOSDRA was established in 2006 as an institutional framework to co-ordinate the implementation of the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) for Nigeria in accordance with the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation (OPRC 90) to which Nigeria is a signatory.
Since its establishment, the agency has been ensuring compliance with environment legislation in the Nigerian petroleum sector.
ERA says it wants the authorities in Abuja and in Yenagoa to declare state of emergency on environment in Bayelsa.
It is also pressing for a moratorium on the divestment programme of oil companies in the Niger Delta, until all legacy polluted sites are cleaned up and remediated, adding, ‘’community folks, civil society and state Ministry of Environment should be empowered to effectively monitor offshore operations; especially from non-molestation from the military.’’
The environmental rights group wants Shell to return to Ikarama spill impacted sites in Yenagoa Local Government Area and carry out cleanup and remediation based on the standard recommended by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for Ogoni without further delay.
It is equally urging community people to promptly report all cases of pollution and also resist self-inflicted injuries by reporting those who may want to cause or causing oil spills in the their environment, and that Bayelsa State Government should rise to the occasion and protect the environment of the oil-bearing communities.
The development is coming as a result of Shell’s alleged improper cleanup and non-remediation of oil spill impacted sites in Ikarama community since August, 2021.
Head of ERA’s branch office in Bayelsa, Morris Alagoa, told NaijaNews that community folks have been raising alarm and his group has been bringing the matter to public space and attention of NOSDRA since last August.
‘’It is shocking that, the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency [NOSDRA] has not acted on this important matter since then; eight months after. With fresh evidence coming up, ERA can confidently say that there is heavy presence of crude oil in the ground at Ikarama.
‘’It is only proper to call on NOSDRA to rise to the occasion. Shell should be prevailed upon to return to Ikarama oil spill impacted environments and carry out proper remediation; as records show that most spill sites in the community were set ablaze and very little or no cleanup was done.
‘’This is why ERA earlier demanded, and is still demanding that Shell should embark on UNEP recommended cleanup/remediation even in Ikarama and other parts of Bayelsa state, including other States of the Niger Delta.
‘’The evidence of the negative impact could be seen on the plantain planted at the site of the heaped mud, from the excavation of last year; as they are stunted and cannot leave the ground’’, Alagoa, the ERA chief said.