Bayelsa State Governor, Douye Diri, on Wednesday visited the site of a recent oil spill in the Nembe Local Government Area of the state, describing it as the worst he had seen in his lifetime.
The OML 29 Well 1 platform, which is operated by Nigeria's largest indigenous oil firm, Aiteo Exploration and Production Company Limited, has been spilling crude unabated into the Santa Barbara River for about one month.
An estimated two million barrels of crude have reportedly been spilt into the river, polluting the flora and fauna of the area.
Governor Diri said the continuous spillage has further endangered the lives of the people of Nembe, Bayelsa and indeed the Niger Delta.
In a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Daniel Alabrah, the governor, who expressed shock over the quantity of crude that had been spilt into the environment, called on the Nigerian Government and operators of the oil field to immediately take action to stop it.
According to him, the prolonged oil spill into the water and air has an immediate and long term effect on the health of the inhabitants.
While assuring the people that appropriate measures would be taken to seek redress, he noted that the quest by oil firms to make money would not be at the expense of the lives of the people.
Describing fishing as the main source of livelihood of the people of the area, Diri noted that just as there are grazing routes, Bayelsa State has fishing routes that must be protected.
He expressed empathy with the Nembe people, whom he said have lost their means of livelihood due to the spill.
He, however, appreciated them for their peaceful disposition.
He said, "Today happens to be a very dark day for me. What we have seen, I believe, is worse than what happened in the Gulf of Mexico. In all my life, I have not seen such a magnitude of oil spillage.
"Our people are endangered. Our people's source of livelihood is endangered. I empathise and sympathise with the people of Nembe on behalf of the government and the people of Bayelsa State.
"I will like to give you hope that we will stand shoulder to shoulder with you. Your government will activate every constitutional means to arrest and redress this magnitude of the oil spill
"I, therefore, call on the Federal Government, the operators of the oil field, NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation) and AITEO to immediately look for superior technical know-how to contain and stop the spread of the oil.
"For Bayelsa, the only thing we know how to do best is fishing. Today, our own fishing route is endangered. I equally call on the Federal Government to immediately react and ensure that our fishing route is safe."
The governor also decried the exclusion of indigenes of host communities in the running of the oil industry, saying if indigenes were part of the operations of the oil field, they would have looked for ways to address the problem.
To ameliorate the suffering of the people, the governor directed the State Emergency Management Agency and Ministry of Health to immediately provide relief materials and healthcare services to the people.