Foreign and indigenous forensic experts engaged by the Bayelsa State government have indicted oil multinationals operating in the state over alleged serial pollution of the waters and creeks of the state, leading to poisonous substances and untimely deaths among indigenes of the state.

Mrs. Funkazi Koroye Crooks, the Bayelsa Commissioner for Trade and Investment, and Mr. Ebi Epiangolo, the state Commissioner for Environment, made this known on Tuesday in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, during a media briefing on the new campaign, tagged ‘Rise for Bayelsa’ to tackle environmental terrorism and devastation by oil multinationals due to massive environmental pollution along the water and creeks in the state.

According to Mrs. Crooks, the forensic scientists engaged by the state government investigated the destructive effect of oil multinationals’ operations on the lives of the people of the state.

“The test has been on for over two years under the state Ministry of Health and it was able to estimate the time a spill occurs and the effect on the lives of the people,” she said.

In his remarks, Epiangolo said instead of the state and its people to benefit from oil exploration by oil multinationals, "the reverse is the case in Bayelsa.”

“The oil companies are not investing in the state, but engaged in oil terrorism and destroying the state and the people. You will shed tears if you know what they are doing. If a spillage occurs in the state, the oil multinationals will set up a joint investigation team and term the spillage as sabotage. They don't pay compensation. Since I have been commissioner, no compensation has been paid. They destroy the environment and refuse to pay compensation. Our water has been destroyed. Our people are dying. Our life expectancy has been reduced drastically. That is environmental terrorism,” he added.

Also supporting the 'Rise for Bayelsa' initiative, Nollywood actor, Francis Duru, actress Tamara Eteimo and musician, Timi Dakolo, declared their support to join the state in battle against the "wicked and parochial" conduct of oil multinationals in the state.

In his speech, Honourable Daniel Alabra, Special Adviser to the Bayelsa Governor on Media, explained that the new campaign is to attract global attention to the ravaging effects of oil spills, pollution and environmental degradation in Bayelsa State.

“It is an international campaign supported by Governor Henry Seriake Dickson, which focuses on the plight of oil-bearing communities across the state. The launch will feature the screening of a short documentary that showcases the devastation caused by oil companies operating in the state. Apart from speeches by government officials, environmental activists and community leaders, there will also be a performance by popular Nigerian musician, Timi Dakolo, the Bayelsa Cultural Troupe, as well as guest appearances by some Nollywood artistes, who support the campaign,” Alabra said.

Alabra, a member of the media and publicity committee of the campaign, noted that oil spills in the western world rightly cause global outrage.

“In Bayelsa, spills happen daily and nothing is being done to put a stop to it. The people of Bayelsa are suffering from the effects of these spills and the environmental hazards they cause. The ‘Rise for Bayelsa’ campaign, therefore, aims to compel those responsible to take action,” he noted.

He said the demands of the ‘Rise for Bayelsa’ campaign include calling on multinational and local oil companies operating in the state to clean up spills immediately, provide swift compensation for impacted communities, provide long term sustainable solutions to avoid spills, as well as invest in sustainable projects in communities in which they operate.

"Bayelsa has the record of being the state where Nigeria's first oil well was drilled by Shell in 1956. Some of the big oil multinationals today have operational bases in the state and it produces about 40 per cent of the country's oil and gas resources. However, Bayelsa continues to suffer vast environmental and human damage due to the exploration activities of the oil firms.

"The campaign noted that oil spills had resulted in lifetime exposure of communities to contaminated air, water sources, soil and sediment, as well as put life expectancy in the Niger Delta around 10 years lower than the national average, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.

"It also stated that flaring of gas, the process by which natural gas associated with petroleum extraction is burned off in the atmosphere, has had significant negative impact in the Niger Delta, leading to environmental problems, such as acid rain, as well as generating greenhouse gases.”

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