THE Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, has accused oil companies that operate in Nigeria of “environmental genocide”.
Speaking at the launch of an interim report by the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission — which works with industry and environmental experts to investigate the impact of oil spills and the environmental and social damage done by oil companies in Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta, Nigeria — Dr Sentamu accused Shell, AGIP, and other oil companies of causing devastation to the environment in the region.
The report states that 40 million litres of oil are spilled in the Niger Delta each year, eight times more than is spilled in the United States, which is the world’s largest producer and consumer of oil. This equates to one barrel a day for every man, woman, and child living in Bayelsa.
Such devastation would never be permitted to continue in Europe or the United States, Dr Sentamu said at the launch. “It is estimated that the consequences of oil spills may kill around 16,000 infants in the Niger Delta annually within their first month of life.
“Our environment knows no bounds. We are all global citizens. It would never be acceptable to cause such environmental devastation in Europe or America, and accordingly it should never be acceptable in Africa or South America.
“Oil companies today have a moral obligation to uphold the same high environmental standards, wherever they operate, anything less is to knowingly continue an environmental genocide against the people of places like the Niger Delta.”
Bayelsa is the region where oil was first discovered in the country in the 1950s, but its discovery has led to vast environmental and human damage. The air, food, and water of hundreds of thousands of people in the region is contaminated; land and fishing grounds have been poisoned; and chronic diseases, including cancers, are on the rise.
Mangrove swamps and fragile wetland areas have been destroyed by oil spills, the Commission finds.
The Commission was set up by the Governor of Bayelsa State, Henry Seriake Dickson, earlier this year. He welcomed the publication of the interim report this week.
“The Commission has finally provided a voice for every man, woman, and child in Bayelsa that has struggled for over half a century with what can be deemed as environmental terrorism,” he said.
Chaired by the Archbishop, its commissioners include a former under-secretary-general at the United Nations, Baroness Amos, and a former President of Ghana, John Kufuor. The Commission has visited the region three times to see and hear about the devastation caused by oil spills and oil pollution.
The Commission will produce its final report in early 2020, which will set out recommendations for a new legal framework that ensures accountability and an action plan for a clean-up. It will also outline a global standard of behaviour for international oil companies in Bayelsa, Nigeria, or Africa.