By Gabriel Enogholase
BENIN â€” EXECUTIVE Director of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria (ERA/FoN), Mr. Nnimmo Bassey has called on the Federal Government and stakeholders in the oil industry to realise that the time had come for the nation to plan ahead in the event of the countryâ€™s crude oil resource being exhausted.
Executive Director of the group, Mr. Nnimmo Bassey, who gave the advice, yesterday, in Port Harcourt at the 2nd National Consultative Conference on Environment organised by ERA/FoN, stressed the need to unhook the nation from the devastating pull of crude oil as the main stay of the nationâ€™s economy.
He also lamented that, â€œthe pull of crude oil has left the Niger Delta prostate and panting for life in a pool of its own blood.â€
According to him, â€œsince the 1970s when oil became the dominant revenue earner in Nigeria, poverty took an upward swing in the nation.
â€œA look at the statistics show that while national wealth increased to the extent that money was no longer the problem of the government but how to spend it, the indivi-dual income fell dramatically between 1985 and 1992.
â€œIndeed, it is believed that by 1992, poverty levels have fallen to below 1950 levels. Aggregate personal income rose by 13 percent between 1960 and 2000, but not due to oil revenues. The indices of growth and development have all dipped or performed at sub-optimal levels,â€ the enviro-mentalist stressed.
â€œLife expectancy rose marginally over the last one year from 47 years to 48 years for women and 46 years to 47 years for men. For the Niger Delta, life is indeed short and brutish as expectancy squats at 41 yearsâ€.
Applauding the amnesty extended to repentant militants by the federal government, Bassey said that armed activities have wrecked the environment, raise pollution levels and put non-combatants, such as children and the aged, at unacceptable risk.
He called on the federal government to ensure that the multi-national oil corporations exploiting oil kept to internationally acceptable standards and eschew double standard.
â€œOn the part of government, this amnesty demands that it wakes up to its responsibility to the development of the Niger DeltaÂ and Nigeria in general, stops oil thefts, enforces the laws of the land and shows respect to the peoples of this nation.
â€œTop of this amnesty is that the government resolves to leave new oil in the soil and bitumen in the land,â€ he said.