A coalition of civil society organizations (CSOs) has called for a state of emergency to be declared in Bayelsa State.
The CSOs, led by Revd Nnimmo Bassey, Director of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), made the announcement over the weekend following a visit to the Santa Barbara River in Nembe, where an oil leak from the Oil Mining Lease (OML 29) Oil hole 01 had polluted the river.
Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth (FoEN) represented by Chima Williams, Stakeholders Democracy Network, Operation Rescue, Ondewari Health Education and Shareholders Alliance for Corporate Accountability were among the other groups in the entourage, which also included frontline Niger Delta woman activist and Executive Director of Agape Birthrights Organisation, Ms Annkio Briggs, and first-class traditional ruler, King of Ekpetiama kingdom, HRM Bubaraye Dakolo.
The visit was uneventful, as the navy officers providing security surrounding the facility refused the entourage entry and detained the three-speed boats transporting the delegation on the canals for more than an hour, stating that only Aiteo could provide permission for the crew to enter the site.
Bassey decried the “overbearing influence of oil firms” on military arrangements in the Niger Delta, calling it unacceptable.
According to him, after the leak at the well has been stopped, considerable efforts should be made to guarantee adequate clean-up and rehabilitation steps.
He stated that the Nembe oil leak is the culmination of a string of oil disasters in Bayelsa State, which necessitates a unique designation as the most contaminated state in the world.
“We call on the Federal Government to declare a state of environmental emergency across Bayelsa State. Bayelsa is the most polluted state in the nation. It could even be the most polluted state in the whole world. Every time, there is one spill going on in Bayelsa.
“This Aiteo well blowout is the climax of all the ravages going on in Bayelsa. All resources should be mobilized to help the people of Bayelsa. NOSDRA should be empowered to do its work.
“NEMA should have been here. They should have set up a major infrastructure to watch the environment and begin a clean-up of Bayelsa State and the Niger Delta following the template set up by UNEP in Ogoni.”
In a similar vein, Ms Annkio Briggs, Chima Williams, and Princess Elizabeth Egbe urged the Federal Government to step up and come to the people’s aid.
They were perplexed as to why the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) had not been dispatched to Bayelsa to offer relief items to mitigate the effects of the oil leak on the residents.