Oil firms in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region have been urged to clean up polluted onshore sites before moving their activities offshore.
Nnimmo Bassey, an environmentalist made the call in Yenegoa, at an oilfield dialogue with the theme, “Building Community Resilience against Fossils Extraction.”
The event which was organsied by Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) for oil communities in Bayelsa was held at the banks of Taylor Creek, Agbia, Yenagoa.
Bassey noted that the Niger Delta region enjoyed clean and natural environment before the discovery of oil about 60 years ago.
He said oil firms’ gradual shift to offshore posed greater danger to the fishing vocation of people.
Bassey said Niger Delta’s rich biodiversity with freshwater and marine ecosystems such as rivers, lakes, streams and creeks had become more threatened.
“It is of national interest to protect the artisanal fishing industry. It is, however, regrettable that most fresh water bodies have been lost to oil pollutionTheir claim is that the Niger Delta no longer suits their business model. They are trying to avoid responsibilities arising from their environmental misbehaviour. They are leaving after sucking the region dry and destroying the environment, if this pollution is replicated offshore, the impact will be very tragic .”Nnimo Bassey, Nigerian environmentalist
One particular industry that has suffered from oil spills is fishing.
For Alas Talani, the damage on the freshwater bodies is colossal.
“I started fishing at the Taylor Creeks as a young girl, I got married and continued fishing with my husband, we used to have bountiful catches. Fishing was rewarding before the oil pipelines were laid, all one needed was to throw the net and tie it across, a few hours later you have a full net.Things have changed, as the oil leaks continued, fishing activities here at Taylor Creeks produced little or no catch, we are endangered.”Alas Talani, activist
Participants commended HOMEF for organising the dialogue, describing it as well intended.
They called for the cleanup of polluted sites on the land and praised the call for stiffer penalties to conserve the environment.
In recent years, environmentalists say oil spills have rendered communities unproductive, while pollution from oil exploration and production have not spared farmlands. ‘
While some communities have won legal cases against oil companies for environmental degradation, a clean-up of the region midwifed by the United National Environment Program (UNEP) is underway.