The Bayelsa State Government has set plans in motion to establish a task force to check illegal refineries activities to protect the environment.
The State Governor, Seriake Dickson made the remark in Yenagoa, the capital city of the southern Nigerian State during the celebration of this year’s World Environment Day.
Governor Dickson noted that his administration engaged the services of forensic experts to compile the effects of prolonged oil pollution on the environment and health of the people in the state.
Dickson described snippets of the forensic reports as “saddening and frightening”, stating that the report would be made public in due course.
According to the Governor, decades of oil pollution and gas flaring in the state and the Niger Delta region was responsible for rising cases of health hazards, with a negative effect on the life span of people.
The Governor said “I urge all of you people of goodwill to join the effort to protect the environment especially in the Niger Delta, which has been under severe, sustained and brutal attack by operators of illegal refineries”.
He said “they have not only invaded the land and expropriated their properties but are now threatening to exterminate the people. A lot of actions would be taken and we will mobilize local and international opinions and the State Assembly on this”.
Governor Dickson said that there was no justification for illegal refinery, stressing “these only further degrade and pollute the already compromised environment as well as destroy lives”.
While reflecting on the theme of this year’s World Environment Day, “Beat Plastic Pollution”, he assured of the State Government’s commitment to invest in reducing the use of plastic products.
The Governor lamented the non-inclusion of the ordinary Niger Delta people in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria, noting that as an advocate for the Bayelsa people, he would not relent in fighting for the benefit of the people.
He said “I fully support the indigenization of the oil and gas industry. This is the only country in the world where, the Niger Delta, which is the source of the crude was not playing host to all the refineries”.
“So there is a case to be made for economic inclusion and I am an advocate for that. Whether this will take the form of oil mining leases awarded to our people or whether this will mean involving them in terms of citing refineries and letting them run businesses in that sector, I stand for that”, Dickson stated.
The Commissioner for Environment, Ebipatei Apaingolo described Bayelsa State as the most impacted by oil pollution due to the activities of companies operating in the Niger Delta region.
Apaingolo added that his Ministry participated in 274 oil spills joint investigation visits on Agip facilities and recorded 580.