Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Oil- spill ravaged communities in Bayelsa State have demanded a clean-up of impacted areas and compensation from oil multinational corporations operating in the state.
The communities also accused the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and another regulatory body, National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), of connivance with oil multinationals in the destruction of their environment.
Four communities that suffered devastating oil spills namely Babragbene, Lasukugbene and Oyeregbene in Southern Ijaw and Mbikiba in Brass Local Government Areas made the accusation during a town hall meeting with members of the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission (BSOEC) at Oyeregbene community.
The commission led by the Archbishop of York in the United Kingdom, Dr. John Sentamu, is on a fact-finding tour of an oil spill and environmentally degraded communities in the state.
The communities which insisted that a clean-up of their land and waterways, as well as payment of compensation by the oil multinationals operating in their area, was long overdue expressed sadness that DPR and NOSDRA have taken sides with the international oil companies (IOCs) whenever spills occur.
They claimed that the Joint Investigation and Verification Reports were not always a reflection of the actual incidents of spills that destroy their source of livelihood.
President of the Ijaw Association of Oil and Gas Producing Communities, Comrade Yabrou Tou, who spoke on behalf of the aggrieved communities, bemoaned the total neglect of host communities by the oil multinationals despite series of appeals to them on the effect of the spills on their environment.
Tou who betrayed emotions and shed tears narrated amid sobs his ordeal when he was dragged before a court in Abuja for reporting Chevron to the Nigeria Human Rights Commission for refusing to clean up a spill that occurred from its facility.
Comrade Tou said the incident, which occurred in 2015 at an oil rig, spilled its contents for six months non-stop.
“The oil firm refused to pay compensation after initially accepting responsibility for the damage to the environment, saying it occurred on their Right of Way (ROW).
“The spills reoccurred in 2018 with the company initially accepting responsibility but later reneged on its promise to pay compensation because, according to them, members of the communities tampered with their facilities at the spill sites.”
Also speaking on behalf of the four communities, Pastor Ofongo Alamene and a fisherwoman, Mrs. Flora Soridei, called on the multinational companies to live up to their corporate responsibility by providing social amenities like potable water, electricity, healthcare, and payment of compensation.