Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Several communities in Brass, Nembe and Southern Ijaw local government areas of Bayelsa State have cried out over the neglect they suffer at the hands of oil companies operating in the area.
The elders, women and youths of the communities hit hard at oil companies operating the areas, lamenting the unfavourable policies of the firms which they allege have deprived them of several benefits.
The communities which bemoaned years of oil spillage that have destroyed their environment, aquatic life and caused severe air and water pollution, called on the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission (BSOEC) to come to their rescue.
The communities stated this at the on-going stakeholders’ forum organised by the BSOEC across the eight local government areas of the state to have first-hand information on the impact of oil and gas exploration activities on host communities.
In Brass, the Amanyanabo of Twon Brass, King Alfred Diette-Spiff, who was represented by Percy Jerry Wemi- Kuomain, said it took several letters and pressure before oil multinational, Agip, came to assess an oil spill.
“The area affected by that spill was 3,172 square metres. But it took Agip more than nine months to award the clean-up contract despite several calls and letters to the company. In fact, Agip is the Lord of the Manor here. Whatever it decides stands.
“It will surprise you that for a clean-up for 3,126 square metres that affected Okpoma and Fantuo communities, Agip awarded a contract of N1, 100,000. What manner of clean-up was that?”
An Odioma community chief, Walter Michael Omiedonya, also lamented the nature of spillage clean-up done by the company, which, according to him, was just on the surface when it ought to be at the river bed of the riverine community.
“As a result, we can no longer go for fishing or cast our nets for crabs, prawns and other seafood due to the negative effects of the spillages. We beg you to help us as we are suffering,” he said.
At the interactive session in Oporoma, headquarters of the Southern Ijaw council, the stakeholders noted that despite their huge contribution to the wealth of the nation, most of their communities lack good schools, health facilities, roads and other basic amenities.
The chairman of Oyeregbene Community Development Committee, Anthony Demotein, said oil exploration had brought them untold hardship.
“In Southern Ijaw, our parents trained us with money they got from farming and fishing. But today, all that is gone. Our crops are no longer growing and we are now battling to train our children,” he lamented.
Chairman of the commission and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who was represented by Prof. Michael Watts, assured the people of Brass that the commission would compile a comprehensive report of the effect of the oil spillage on their communities.