Chairman of the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission (BSOEC), Most Reverend John Sentamu, on Tuesday, assured victims of environmental degradation in the state that the commission will not rest until they get justice.
The Dr. Sentamu-led panel was inaugurated in March this year by Governor Henry Seriake Dickson as an independent body to look into the environmental and human impact of oil spills in the state.
Speaking in Yenagoa during the commission’s roundtable with civil society organisations, Sentamu, who is the Archbishop of York in the United Kingdom, said CSOs play a vital role in ensuring communities were represented and in addressing society’s injustices through a neutral platform.
His words: “Many of you have been involved in issues of social, political and economic justice in the Niger Delta for a number of years.
“Today, we would like to hear from you about the work you have been doing in Bayelsa in relation to oil spills and what you would like to see from the oil companies in terms of their operations in your communities.”
Other members of the commission present at the interactive session were Prof. Emeseh Engobo, Dr Anna Zalik, Dr Catherine Nwajiaku-Dahou and Dr Isaac Osuoka, pioneer spokesman of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) and founder of Social Action, a Niger Delta-based CSO.
Chairman of the Bayelsa Non-Governmental Organisations Forum (BANGOF), Robinson Kuroghobogha, in his remarks, said the commission needed to involve victims of the environmental degradation in the state in its decision-making process.
“Those that suffer the environmental degradation are supposed to be here. They have to be part of the decision making process,” he said.
Declaring the CSOs support for the commission, Kuroghobogha stated that massive oil pollution had destroyed the environment and traditional means of livelihoods of the people.
He said that this had brought about high rate of poverty, unemployment, criminality and violence.
The BANGOF chair noted that the ugly situation had been worsened by poor environmental practices by the international oil companies and the inability of government agencies to hold them to account.
He said more people were resorting to self-help by engaging in pipeline vandalism, artisanal refining, illegal oil bunkering, wanton destruction of forests, militancy and general violence in the area as a result of environmental degradation.