British MP, Report Slam Oil Firms, Allege Environmental Genocide in Bayelsa
From Mike Tayese, Yenagoa
Oil pollution in Bayelsa State was on the international focus on Tuesday, as the report of the state’s Oil and Environmental Commission (BSOEC) was launched at the House of Lords in London.
The 211-page report titled: “An Environmental Genocide: Counting the Human Cost of Oil in Bayelsa, Nigeria,” is a detailed documentation of the over 60 years of oil exploration and pollution in the state where oil was first discovered in commercial quantity in Nigeria by Shell.
The BSOEC was established in March 2019 by the immediate past Governor, Senator Seriake Dickson administration.
It had as chair, a former Anglican Archbishop of York and member of the House of Lords, Dr.John Sentamu, alongside former president of Ghana, John Kufuor and another member of the House of Lords, Baroness Valerie Amos, as honorary commissioners.
Baroness Amos, in her remarks, said the pollution of Bayelsa by oil multinationals was scandalous and shameful, calling on the international community to take action against polluters of the environment.
“The research and the evidence contained in the report tell the stories that are so important. The community impact of the pollution comes through so clearly and it is devastating.
“This has been on for so long. It is an absolute scandal and we should all be ashamed that we have got to this point. Those responsible, including our international oil companies, should be ashamed of the roles they have played in their refusal to take responsibility.
“Talking about this being the fault of the local communities, who can see the result of this long-standing neglect and not be moved? And yet, that is what exactly happened. There has been no accountability on the part of the oil multinationals.
“I understand that there are a lot of people who might not even have heard about Bayelsa. But I hope what people would be able to connect to and see as a result of this report is the scale of the human impact”, she said.
The MP stressed the need to take collective action now, saying the international community had to rally to save Bayelsa from the impact of what could be described as an environment genocide.
While presenting the report, chair of the commission’s Expert Working Group, Dr Kathryn Nwajiaku-Dahou, said the document was the product of four years of tireless work put in by researchers, scientists and professionals in different fields, who went round Bayelsa communities gathering samples.
“This helped us to bring to light what the commission describes as environment genocide that plagues Bayelsa today.
“The Commission’s findings shine light on the pollution catastrophe engulfing the state and its underlying causes. Chief among them are the systemic failings of international oil company operators with the complicity of Nigeria’s political class and a dysfunctional Nigerian regulatory state.
“The report sets out a proposal to end decades-long cycles of contamination and neglect by the oil and gas industry.”
Nwajiaku-Dahou said among others, the Commission recommended concerted international action to generate and invest at $12billion over 12 years to “repair, remediate and restore the environmental and public health damage caused by oil and gas.”
The Commission’s chair, Rt. Rev. Sentamu, presented the report to the Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri.
Governor Diri, in his response, commended the commissioners, researchers, non-governmental organisations and the Commission’s secretariat that painstakingly put the report together as well as the people of Bayelsa for “coming forward to make their voices heard.”
He also lauded his predecessor, Senator Seriake Dickson, for his foresight and vision in empaneling the commission.
Diri pledged that his administration would act on the recommendations and seek partners to ensure that the report was implemented.
“I, on behalf of the government and people of Bayelsa State, pledge our commitment to act decisively and speedily on the recommendations of this report. In doing this, we remain open to robust and genuine engagements with all stakeholders.”
In a goodwill message presented virtually by Senator Seriake Dickson, the former Bayelsa governor said the report was very important and that he established the commission to be able to document the decades-long degradation of the Bayelsa environment and its effect on people of the state.
He said this was also done to have a basis to hold the oil multinationals operating in Bayelsa and the Niger Delta since 1956 to account and to be able to shift their mindset.
At the event were Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Sharafadeen Isola, former military administrator of Bayelsa State, Col. Edor Obi (rtd), chairman of the Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council and Ibenanaowei of Ekpetiama Kingdom, King Bubaraye Dakolo, the Amanyanabo of Okpoama Kingdom, King Ebitimi Banigo, Europe-based stakeholders in the oil sector as well as Nigerians based in the United Kingdom.
Senate Defers Valedictory Session to Saturday
Trailed by unresolved wrangling over the election of its principal officers in the 10th assembly, the Senate yesterday postponed its earlier announced valedictory session.
The Green Chamber is yet to agree on who occupies what position in the incoming Senate principal officers’ election, following the All Progressives Congress (APC) to allocate the positions to the six geo-political zones of the country.
The APC National Working Committee (NWC) had zoned the Senate Presidency of the forthcoming 10th National Assembly to the South-South; and the Speakership of the House of Representatives to the North-West.The party also zoned the Deputy Senate Presidency to the North-West, and Deputy Speakership to the South-East.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, announced yesterday that the Senate has rescheduled its valedictory session to Saturday.
On the other hand, the House Representatives yesterday held its Valedictory Session.
Lawan had announced on Tuesday that the Upper Chamber would hold its valedictory session on Thursday.
The Senate President told members of the Senate Press Corps that the shift in the date was due to a scheduled meeting of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu with the lawmakers of the incoming 10th National Assembly on Thursday.
The Senate held plenary on Tuesday as well as yesterday.
“By the grace of God, we will still hold plenary today and then our valedictory session will be on Saturday.
“It is because tomorrow, Mr President, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will be meeting with the Senators-elect and members-elect at 2pm.
“And we believe that a session as significant, important, historical and memorable as valedictory session of the Senate requires a whole day. Not one, two, three hours. And therefore we pushed it to Saturday,” Lawan said.
The Ninth Senate officially ends its four-year tenure on 11th June, 2023.
Lawan hinted that the 10th Senate would be inaugurated on Tuesday, 13th June, 2023.
Memories, Emotions as Reps Dissolve 9th Assembly
By Eze Okechukwu & Ubong Ukpong, Abuja
Memories and emotions went high yesterday during the valedictory session of the House of Representatives, as Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila officially dissolved the 9th assembly.
Rep. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, the Majority Leader of the House, had moved a motion to commence the valedictory session, while Rep Ndudi Elumelu, the Minority Leader seconded the motion.
Gbajabiamila, in his valedictory speech, said: “I will miss all of you and miss this house, you have enriched my life and I cannot express how much you have impacted the house.
In an emotion laden speech, Gbajabiamila said the joint efforts in nation building by members were to ensure that the dreams of the nation’s founding fathers did not die.
“We have come, we have seen and while we are yet to conquer, my enthusiasm to serve remained undiminished,” he said.
According to him, it has been the honour of his life to serve the people of the country.
“I thank my constituency and I express gratitude to my colleagues for the privilege to serve.”
He said since he assumed office, the house had changed drastically in such a manner he had not witnessed, adding that the change came with speed as witnessed in the last four years.
He said the 9th House of Reps had governed well with some interventions, including COVID-19 pandemic, Police Reform Bill, Electoral Acts Amendment Bill, Constitutional Review, among others.
“We have worked to take advantage of social and economic transformation that benefit us; we have left our mark on every sectors of our national life,” he said.
He said the House was able to introduce discipline on the Appropriation Act that now commenced from January to December of every year.
According to him, the 9th House of Reps has ended and the 10th will commence.
“I urge you to ensure that you are not found wanting by man or God in the final judgment.”
Also, Rep. Julius Ihovhre (APC-Edo), said he would forever cherish the friendship he made in the 9th assembly, adding that such relationship would last forever.
He commended the speaker for leading the house well and perfectly and demonstrated that he could manage a diverse group of people.
“In your new roles as the Chief of Staff to the President, the challenges you will face are more than here, we plead with you not to abandon the spirit of excellence,” he said.
He said Nigeria required the kind of leader with a sense of mission, while urging Gbajabiamila to ensure the Federal Government paid attention to basic education.
Rep. Luke Onofiong (PDP-Akwa-Ibom) said members had made relationships that would last forever and commended his constituency for giving him the privilege to serve.
He commended the speaker for accommodating members and relaxing the rules to give new members a voice, noting that the speaker was gentle enough to accommodate their errors.
He urged the house to take the judiciary seriously with salary review.
Rep. Yusuf Gadgi (APC-Plateau) on his part said, “In my constituency, Muslims are 30 per cent while Christians constitute 70 per cent but they have always sent me here and for using me as a good example of how Nigeria should behave.
“What I want to say is the message of forgiveness, I want, on your behalf and other members, to forgive one another. In this assignment, we must have offended one another.
His comment on forgiveness generated some uproar, as members grumbled endlessly.
Unperturbed, Gagdi said “irrespective of the grumbling, what is right is right and people must learn to forgive others”.
Rep. Aisha Duku (APC-Borno) expressed gratitude for the opportunity to serve as the first woman to represent her constituency.
“Mr Speaker you have blessed me to bless others, I have changed the perspective of politics in my area because this is the first time that a Fulani woman and a Muslim will come out from that area.
“I have been able to enlighten people and bring out the women to vote, which hitherto they had not.
“I have participated in Bills assented to by the president and today they are laws, I commend my committee as the Chairman, House Committee on INEC, for supporting me.
Duku said she was now a better Nigerian, as she traveled to a lot of places in the country but her only regret was that no gender bill was passed.
In attendance at the session of the 9th assembly were former speakers, House Leader such as Gali Na’abba, Patricia Etteh, Mulikat Akande and some former clerks of NASS.
Tinubu Directs NEC to Work on Subsidy Removal Palliatives
By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja
President Bola Tinubu, yesterday directed the National Economic Council (NEC) led by Vice President Kashim Shettima to device an approach and begin the process of working on interventions to mitigate the impact of subsidy removal on the Nigerians.
Governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, stated this after leading some major oil marketers on a courtesy visit to the President at the State House in Abuja.
Addressing correspondents after the meeting, Abiodun, who was a former chairman of the oil marketers association, stated that the marketers expressed solidarity with the President for removing the N4trn subsidy burden, a move that can enhance the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) allocation to states.
The group of marketers subsequently announced their intention to donate to 50 to 100, fifty-seater mass transit buses that would run on CNG, costing N100m each and N10bn cumulatively, to cushion the effect of the removal within the next 30 days.
They are hoping other corporate bodies can emulate their action.
The President’s meeting with the oil marketers comes amid the controversy and protests trailing the removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit known as petrol.
President Tinubu, during his inaugural speech on May 29 at the Eagle Square in Abuja had announced the removal of subsidy payment on petrol. The President said that the immediate past administration of Muhammadu Buhari did not make provisions for subsidy in the 2023 budget beyond June.
Many Nigerians had expected that the new price regime would come into effect by July 1 but almost immediately after the presidential pronouncement, queues resurfaced at filling stations across the country even as retail outlets hoard the product and increase prices.
Already, a litre of petrol is being sold at over N500 across the country following NNPC price adjustment and the presidential pronouncement on subsidy removal.
Fuel queues have since surged for the vital commodity, compounding the traffic situation in parts of the country, even as transportation cost skyrocket to more than 100% increment.
The Organised Labour had resolved to embark on a nationwide strike beginning Wednesday but was restrained by a court order of Monday, June 5, 2023. The Organised Labour subsequently shelved its planned strike after a meeting with the Federal Government late Monday.
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