Originally published in Anglican News
The Archbishop of York has called for urgent action to stop the oil spills that are devastating communities in Nigeria’s Bayelsa state.
Following the release of an interim report of the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission, which he chairs, the Archbishop, Dr John Sentamu called the actions of oil companies operating in the Niger Delta as “nothing less than environmental genocide”.
The Archbishop said that oil companies needed to end a culture of double standards in Nigeria. Launching the report, he accused Shell, AGIP and other oil companies of reaping environmental devastation upon the people of Bayelsa and of ignoring their pleas for assistance.
He said: “Roughly 40m litres of oil wind up in the Niger Delta annually, eight times more than is spilled in America, the world’s biggest producer and consumer.”
Bayelsa is the region where oil was first discovered in the country in the 1950s. Few countries have suffered more from oil pollution than Nigeria. Some spills are caused by equipment failure and others by sabotage. Over the last half century, as many as 10 million barrels of oil have been spilled across the country. This would be the same as a spill the size of the Exxon Valdez catastrophe – which devastated the coast of Alaska – every single year for the last 50 years.
“Early analysis shows that if Bayelsa’s share of oil spilled is the same as oil pumped, as much as a barrel of oil may have been spilled for every man, woman and child living in Bayelsa today,” The Archbishop said: “It is estimated that the consequences of oil spills may kill around 16,000 infants in the Niger Delta annually within their first month of life.”
“Our environment knows no bounds. We are all global citizens. It would never be acceptable to cause such environmental devastation in Europe or America, and accordingly it should never be acceptable in Africa or South America.”
“Oil companies today have a moral obligation to uphold the same high environmental standards, wherever they operate, anything less is to knowingly continue an environmental genocide against the people of places like the Niger Delta.”
Speaking at the launch of the interim report the Governor of Bayelsa State, Henry Seriake Dickson, who established the Commission to bring the oil companies to account said: “I am grateful to the Archbishop, the Commissioners and the global community for highlighting this long-held injustice on the world stage. The Commission has finally provided a voice for every man, woman and child in Bayelsa that has struggled for over half a century with what can be deemed as environmental terrorism”.
The Commission was set up to investigate the environmental and human damage caused by the operation of oil companies as a result of oil spills and to analyse legislation governing the operation of multinational oil companies in Bayelsa State and in Nigeria. The final report with recommendations is due to be released in early 2020.
Bayelsa accounts for 40 per cent of Nigeria’s oil wealth and hosts the operations of the large multinational oil companies.
Both Shell and AGIP claim that they follow international standards and best practices and work in accordance with local laws.