By Samuel Oyadongha
RESIDENTS of Azuzuama, a waterside oil community in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, have cried out that they do not have drinkable water and no farmland anymore, despite residing in a riverside setting all because of exploitation by multinational oil companies.
The inhabitants spoke through the traditional head of the community, Chief Otubo Jonathan-Kpeli when the newly inaugurated Bayelsa State Environmental Degradation Commission of Inquiry headed by Most Rev. Rt Hon. Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, visited the community and others on a fact-finding mission.
Azuzuama residents while conducting members of the commission round the impacted sites said the visit to the troubled communities would further help focus national and international attention on their many years of neglect and suffering.
We buy potable water from the city —Traditional head
Chief Jonathan-Kpeli, said, “The sources of water, which is the rivers, have been polluted, no potable water to drink except only when we buy water from the city.”
“Oil exploitation in my community, Azuzuama, is no longer a blessing to our people as I am speaking, there are no farmlands for us to cultivate.
“This suffering and smiling: the common ailment here is cancer and kidney disease. The years of pollution has destroyed our means of livelihood,” he added.
Indigenes back Dickson on Commission of Inquiry
The commission inaugurated last Thursday in Yenagoa by Governor Dickson has been to Ebelebiri and Ikarama communities in Yenagoa local government area and Azuzuama in the deep swamp area of Southern Ijaw local government area to see firsthand the level of degradation and pollution of the environment that the very existence of the people depends on.
The offensive stench from the polluted river and creek leading to Azuzuama is one of the several environmental challenges confronting oil-bearing communities in the Niger Delta.
Indigenes of oil-bearing communities in the state, who have had to contend with many years of environmental despoliation occasioned by the activities of oil multinationals, have thrown their weight behind the Commission, which is to investigate the negative impact of oil exploration over the years.
At Ikarama community, youth president, Mr Benjamin Walter, described the spills occasioned by oil exploitation as worrisome to the people.
Walter said the move by Bayelsa Government to investigate the harmful impact of environmental degradation would go a long way to checkmate the wrongs of the multinational oil firms in their host communities.
Scientific Officer, Bayelsa Ministry of Environment, Mr Bob Keniyinboh, said that the cause of spillage was mainly equipment failure of the oil company and commended the setting up of the commission of inquiry on the state.
Gov blasts oil companies
Governor Dickson while inaugurating the commission asserted that the mindless activities of the multinational oil firms in the oil-rich state were responsible for the high infant mortality rate in Bayelsa and the Niger Delta.
He said that a UN survey revealed that crude oil spillage causes the death of over 16,000 infants within the first month of birth in the Niger Delta.
“The Niger Delta environment is in turmoil and the livelihood of the people in peril because of the insensitive degradation of the environment by international oil firms who are driven solely by a quest to make money.
‘The flagrant abuse of the Niger Delta environment as clearly shown by available statistical evidence, indicated that about 40 million barrels of crude oil are spilt into the damaged environment of the Niger Delta as opposed to four million barrels in the United States.
“The ravages oil production has reduced life expectancy in Bayelsa and other oil-producing states in Nigeria by ten years below the National Average,” he said.