By Esther Onyegbula
THE Federal Government and other relevant stakeholders have been charged to tackle oil theft, environmental pollution and insecurity in the country.
In her presentation at a one day media engagement against crude oil theft in Nigeria organised by New Nigeria Foundation, NNF recently in Lagos, Chikodi Amadi-Chiedo Programmes Manager, NNF, said there was an urgent need for the Federal Government to find a lasting solution these issues because of their negative impact. He said: “Environmental degradation has been a major predicament in the Niger Delta since the extraction of oil began in the region. With a landmass of approximately 70,000km2, a total of 7.5 percent of the country is affected.
“Negligence by oil extractors and the federal government, poor infrastructure management, and oil theft has led to the loss of 7,500km of rain and mangrove forest. Oil spillage via pipeline drilling, conventional spill and bush refineries, have poisoned the water with carcinogen benzene at levels around 900117 considerably higher than the WHO approved level for drinking water which is 10. Pollution has also left soil dead up to depths of 5m118 making it infertile.
“Mangrove plants make up most of the vegetation in the Delta and are most susceptible to oil spills because their seeds are stored in the soil. In many cases, the mangrove plant only sprouts a stem, no leaves. The stems are coated with oil, sometimes 1cm thick.”
Also speaking, Olayide Adesanya, Senior Programmes Manager, stated that the total environmental devastation in the region is due to poor refinery management and runoff flows during transport and storage. She stated: “It is estimated that up to a fifth of stolen oil is delivered to small-scale refineries in the creeks and mangroves, where it is boiled to produce low-grade diesel fuel or petrol. The efficiency of these so called ‘bush’ refineries is estimated at barely 20 percent as the heavy end of crude that cannot be refined is dumped into the environment.
“Poor refining techniques and nonchalant disposal of waste into streams and creeks further pollute the Delta. Streams and creeks carry polluted water into community water supplies and damage the land.”
Also, because areas are tidally influenced (e.g. Bodo) the spills are then carried to other parts of the Niger Delta causing a domino effect.
“Bush refineries are also susceptible to fires due to poor techniques and the absence of any kind of safety checks. A fire in an area with so much wood and flammable crude will cause massive air pollution.”