Gov. Diri blames oil companies for environmental degradation in Bayelsa – Worldstage

Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa says International Oil Companies (lOCs), especially Shell Petroleum Development Company, have been responsible for environmental degradation in the state.

Diri made this known on Sunday during the annual convention and fundraiser of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) of the Americas, held in Houston, Texas, USA.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme of the congress is: “Ijaw-Nation: Nurturing partnership through symbiotic relationships towards homeland, social and economic development”.

The governor specifically pointed to Shell as a major culprit in the damage to the Bayelsa environment.

“After waiting several years for a dialogue without Shell or any other IOC coming forward, we will be forced to take legal action against the Dutch super oil giant and other IOCs.

”Today Shell is divesting and I call on the Minister of Petroleum (Oil) that we have a duty to ensure that Shell’s divestment must ensure that our environment is improved.

“Today our flora and fauna have disappeared. Our beautiful surroundings have also disappeared.

“We will need the support of our brothers and sisters in the diaspora because there is so much we can achieve if we work together,” Diri said.

In his remarks, Mr. Heineken Lokpobiri, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Oil), sought the support of the ljaw people to join hands with President Bola Tinubu in the fight against oil theft and environmental pollution.

Lokpobiri said: “If you go to our area in Bayelsa State, this is probably the most polluted state but people may not know it.

“What is responsible for this pollution could mainly be the people or companies. The people of that state are involved in obtaining illegal crude oil for illegal refining.

“After refining, they throw the rest into the river.

“You will agree with me that the federal government legally owns the water and land resources. So, it is up to everyone to join hands to fight this menace,” he said.

The minister called on Nigerians in the diaspora to support the efforts of the government so that the environment can be preserved.

He called on people in the diaspora to tell Nigerians in the Niger Delta to stop destroying pipelines.

“It will do more damage to the communities than the little money they will make.

“No matter the revenue generated from the illegal refining, it cannot feed the people of the communities, so we appeal to those who perpetuate such acts to desist.

“President Tinubu will continue to support all Nigerians in the diaspora, including the ljaw people, because we hold a strategic position in the country and oil remains the main force of our economy.

“It accounts for at least 90 percent of forex. We occupy the entire coastal area.

“To benefit from this resource, we must work with government at all levels,” he added.

Earlier, the President General of INC, Prof. Benjamin Okaba, said the choice of theme for this year’s event is very appropriate and engaging.

According to Okaba, the theme seeks to identify and address the diverse means, methodologies and strategies of rejigging, mobilization, galvanization, repositioning of credible and symbiotic connections and partnership between the Ijaws in America and others in the diaspora.

“Despite the God-given vast human and natural resources of the Ijaws, who are equally among the four largest ethnic groups in Nigeria, the Ijaw nation, the focus of this conversation, is severely impoverished, brutally balkanized, neglected and undermined by successive governments in Nigeria even before independence.

“The local economy of Ijaw is poorly articulated. This is further exacerbated by the lack of meaningful wealth creation/empowerment and employment.

“The Ijaw ecosystem, to say the least the worst ever recorded anywhere in the world, has continuously suffered unmitigated catastrophes largely emanating from oil and gas exploitation related pollution without any reasonable form of remediation and compensation.

“The Ijaws suffer from the status of slaves and aliens in a land where they are indigenous and the producers of the economic mainstay,” he said.

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