Four communities in Bayelsa State have accused the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and another regulatory body, National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), of connivance with oil multinationals in the destruction of their environment.
The communities, including Babragbene, Lasukugbene and Oyeregbene in Southern Ijaw and Mbikiba in Brass local government areas, made the accusation on Wednesday during a town hall meeting with members of the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission (BSOEC) at Oyeregbene community.
The commission was led by the Archbishop of York in the United Kingdom, Dr. John Sentamu, who was on a fact-finding tour of oil spill and environmentally degraded communities in the state.
The communities, said federal agencies, DPR and NOSDRA, were biased in favour of the international oil companies (IOCs) whenever spills occurred.
Speaking on behalf of the aggrieved residents, the President of the Ijaw Association of Oil and Gas Producing Communities, Comrade Yabrou Tou, lamneted what he described as the total neglect of host communities by the oil multinationals despite series of appeals to them on the effect of the spills on their environment.
“The oil firm refused to pay compensation after initially accepting responsibility for the damage to the environment, saying it occurred on their Right of Way (ROW).
“The spills reoccurred in 2018 with the company initially accepting responsibility but later reneged on its promise to pay compensation because, according to them, members of the communities tampered with their facilities at the spill sites.”
Also speaking on behalf of the four communities, Pastor Ofongo Alamene said: “The multinational companies know that a divided house cannot stand. So they sponsor violence, which is working for them.
“They also know the level of ignorance of the communities. They get them to sign the wrong documents, which render the communities defenseless when they avoid repairing their pipelines that are long overdue. Some of the pipelines have stayed up to 40 years whereas their lifespan is 20 years.”
He accused the oil majors of non-implementation of the terms of their General Memorandum of Understanding (GMOU) signed with host communities.
“No medical or material supports are given to victims of oil spills while projects promised in the GMOUs are either haphazardly done or abandoned midway with flimsy excuses,” he said.
In his remarks, Bayelsa State Commissioner for the Environment, Ebipatei Apaingolo, said the commission was established to examine the impact of oil exploration activities on host communities in the state.
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