Port Harcourt — A call has been made to oil multinationals seeking to divest from onshore operations, to ensure a proper cleanup of all polluted onshore sites, before moving their operations to offshore oilfields.
Executive Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, Dr. Nnimmo Bassey, who made the call in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, noted that the gradual shift by oil multinationals to offshore posed greater danger to the fishing vocation of Niger Delta people.
Bassey who spoke at an oilfield dialogue with the theme, Building Community Resilience against Fossils Extraction, lamented the current plight of the hitherto clean and natural environment in the Niger Delta region before the discovery of oil 60 years ago.
He particularly said that Shell Petroleum Development Company should be made to clean-up every polluted onshore site before leaving, lamenting that Shell’s planned onshore divestment was tantamount to moving pollution offshore.
The environmentalist noted that whereas more than six million people who are engaged in fishing, have their jobs threatened by the oil industry which employs only few Nigerians, adding that it was in national interest to protect the artisanal fishing industry.
He regretted that the fresh water bodies which supported the fishing occupation of the region has been lost to decades of oil pollution and urged the people to say, “No to a Niger Delta without fish.”
“The head of Shell oil company was recently quoted as saying that the Niger Delta no longer suits their business model. On this account, he said they were moving from onshore to the deep waters offshore.
“They are going offshore in order to avoid responsibility for their continued environmental misbehaviour in our communities. They are heading offshore after committing ecocide onshore.
“They are shifting offshore after sucking the land dry and trashing whatever they came across. Above all, the hopes of our fishers remain in the fish that pollution has driven offshore and now the polluters are threatening to take their business there.
“If transnational oil companies replicate their prodigious pollution offshore, the fishers, the peoples and communities of the Niger Delta will be totally stranded on both land and sea.
“That is the definition of disaster. Besides shifting pollution offshore, our fishers will face the hazards of security forces cordoning off oil installations and at the same time be confronted by the largely unchecked activities of sea pirates,” Bassey said.
For his part, a community leader and fisherman in Ikarama, Yenagoa, Chief Washington Odoyibo, condemned the unsustainable environmental practices of oil multinationals operating in the state.
Odoyibo said that frequent oil spills had rendered the predominantly fishing people of the area unproductive, adding that pollutions from oil exploration activities did not spare their farmlands.