CHAIRMAN of Nigeria's Governors' Forum and Governor of Rivers State, one of the key oil and gas producers in Southern Nigeria, Chibuike Amaechi, has lashed out at the Federal Government, saying the measures they put in place to combat environmental challenges in the country, are gassy.
The governor who was speaking against the backdrop of worrisome environmental degradation, and rampaging floods in the Niger Delta, Nigeria's volatile oil and gas region, wants Abuja, to quickly put in place ''workable measures'' that will adequately address the growing problems of environmental degradation and flooding in the region and the country as a whole. Amaechi passed this seeming Safe Our Souls message to the authorities in Abuja, through the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology. Members of the committee, led by their Chair, Dr. Bukola Saraki, had paid the governor a courtesy visit at the Government House, Port Harcourt, on Tuesday.
At the occasion, Governor Amaechi argued that if adequate measures were not urgently put in place to address the problems suffered by oil producing communities in the region, ''state resources will not be enough to contain the humanitarian crisis that will arise from official inaction''.
According to the chair of the governors' forum, ''we all know that derivation funds are paid to the states, but all of us must work together and ensure that the problems faced by these communities should be addressed.
“We should do something fast to help our people, that is why I said, you need to champion the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) that addresses issues of oil producing communities, and that is our concern because it will bring succor to our people”.
He said the issue of flooding had become worrisome in the oil and gas region and called on the central government to take urgent steps to remove silt from River Niger in a bid to address the menace of flooding.
''The reason why you have flooding is because the federal government need to remove silt from River Niger, and if we don’t do that, we can’t stop flooding”, he said, while thanking the senate committee for their concern and commitment to finding a lasting solution to the environmental challenges suffered by the people of the region.
Earlier, committee chair, Sen. Saraki said they were in the state as part of their oversight functions to verify complains relating to issues of environmental pollution and devastation in oil producing communities in the state. Saraki expressed disappointment over the level of oil pollution in Ebite, Ebubu, Bori and Joinkrama communities in Rivers state.
''We visited some oil producing communities where there were complains of oil degradation and devastation of their water, farmlands and environment, and the people could do nothing for their livelihood, because no remediation was paid to them by those oil companies'', the senate committee chair said.
He stated that, it was wrong for host communities to suffer such level of pollution from oil companies operating in their areas without adequate compensation paid to those affected.
Saraki also stressed the need for the speedy passage of NOSDRA Amendment Bill 2012 before the National Assembly to address problems of compensation, polluter pays and spill affecting oil producing communities in the Niger Delta.
He said, ''we need the NOSDRA Amendment Bill 2012 to be considered for speedy passage, because, right now, no penalty for oil companies operating in oil producing communities, what the companies do is just to clean up the environment without any compensation or remediation to the people, we will do our best to change things that would better the life of our people''.
He commended Governor Amaechi for restoring peace in the state, and thanked the oil affected communities for their cooperation and for making their inspection visit a success. ENDS