Stakeholders in the oil-bearing communities of Delta State have again decried the many negative impacts of the activities of oil companies operating in the state but accused the Federal Government of looking the other way while its citizens are dying in their numbers.
“We are oppressed by the oil giants who came into our land years ago for oil exploration and exploitation but today we realise they are silent killers,” the communities said.
The oil companies including Shell Petroleum Company Limited were accused of not adopting best international standard practices in their operations thereby endangering the lives of the people living in their host communities.
They have continued to flare gas rather than convert the fossil fuel to renewable energy for the betterment of their host communities.
At a one-day round-table conference organised by the Action Aid Nigeria, there were recommendations to the effect that the country should be blacklisted from receiving foreign aids untill it has addressed issues bordering on human rights abused by the multinational firms.
Non-implementation of the existing laws as well as non-domestication of other human rights laws are part of reasons why our people are dying and the deceases and deaths would continue to the future generations if nothing is done now, they said.
Representatives of the oil communities – men, women, youth and children who were at the event lamented how their lives and environment have been polluted by the activities of the oil companies.
We see the oil exploration and exploitation in our communities, the oil spillages that pollute our ecosystem killing our acqualife and vegetation. We don’t even have good water because they are polluted, lamented Grace Oberhiri, a teenage girl from Orogun Community.
She said that as a result of polluted environment, the sources of income of their parents are affected and their children too.
“We don’t have food to eat. We go to school hungry. We want the government to cause the oil companies to implement the international laws on human rights to save our lives and those of our future generations,” she said.
A woman from one of the communities in the state, also accused SPDC of not impacting their lives despite having oil well-head in their land.
The woman believed to be in her late 50s said her mother who is now aged has never received a Kobo from the oil giant for years it has been operating there.
“My mother has never received anything and now she is aged. I’m the only one alive among my siblings and I need money to take care of my aged mother,” she said.
This situation made many participants to wonder whether it was a curse for one to have an oil-well head in one’s land. This is called living in poverty in the midst of plenty, they said.
Jonah Iwhrekan, a youth said government should put things in order. Billions of naira leave our land on daily basis yet our communities are suffering.
The companies use divide and rule system to oppress the people while they take away our God- given resources.
He called on the Federal Government to ensure the laws including the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) is implemented and the oil company made to be accountable to the people.
Andrew Mamedu, Action Aid Nigeria’s Country Director, had also decried how the oil companies live in affluence while their host communities live in abject poverty and also called for all stakeholders to rise and fight
rather than leave the fight for few individuals.
Heritage Oil Company through it’s representative, pointed out ways it has carried out it’s Corporate Social Responsibilities to it’s host communities.
Sunday Umuha, a representative of House of Reps’ Committee on Nigeria Delta Affairs, said that Nigeria is a signatory to many human rights threaties, adding that except those laws are domesticated, nothing works.
Let the fight start internally, then we can conquer externally.
Chidi Nwankpa, SSA to House Committee Chairman on Climate Change, stressed the need for all the stakeholders to play their own role, adding that gas flaring was not the only issue about climate change. We have deforestation, flooding etc. Let’s contribute to ensure environment that is healthy for all of us, he appealed.
Also, Sonia Somuvie, an environmentalist and aide to Senator Ned Nwoko, on Environment and SDGs
said “We all eat fruits from the trees in our environment. We can do what we can to safeguard our immediate environment even while we look up to government to do its part.”
At the end of the round-table, a communique was issued, calling for the blacklisting of Nigeria from receiving foreign aids until the country has addressed the issues of human rights abused by oil companies against their host communities.