ODAHIEKWU OGUNDE, Yenagoa
No fewer than 105 coastal communities in Bayelsa State risk extinction in the next 30 years if nothing is done to halt the rampaging effects of ocean encroachment, a university don, Prof. Ambily Etekpe, has warned.
Etekpe, a lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Niger Delta University, Amassoma, Bayelsa State, gave the warning on Wednesday during the unveiling and public presentation of a book titled, ‘Oceanification: Environmental, Ecological and Socio-Economic Impacts in Niger Delta’.
The unveiling of the book written by the Second Vice-President of Ijaw National Congress (INC), Chief Nengi James, was held at the Secretariat of the Federated Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Yenagoa, the state capital.
Etekpe, who was also the chairman on the occasion, said there was the urgent need for concerted efforts and campaigns towards creating awareness on ocean encroachment just like desertification.
He stressed that ocean encroachment needed national and international interests to address in order to avert imminent disaster.
Etekpe blamed oil exploration activities of the the multinational oil companies for the problem, lamenting that the IOCs had moved their operations offshore into the sea with its attendant negative impacts on the environment.
Etekpe said: “Desertification is equivalent to oceanification but while nobody talks about oceanification, desertification is generating not only national but international interests.
“Oceanification has become a very important issue to address. The effects of ocean encroachment in Bayelsa State in particular and other states in general have taken over most of where we used to have towns and communities. So, the towns and communities continue to shift and one finds out that the extreme of that shifting is another river.
“If something is not done, in the next 30 years, a lot of our towns and communities will be taken over by the ocean. In Bayelsa State, we have over 500 communities and out of that, 105 communities, representing over 20 per cent live by the ocean. If they are disorganized or dislocated, where else can they go?”
In his remarks, the traditional ruler of Moko-ama Sangana Community in Akassa, Brass Local Government Area, His Royal Highness, King Moses Theophilus, who formally unveiled the book, commended Chief Nengi James for the bold and apt submission of issues recorded in the book.
He said ocean encroachment remained a major problem to coastal communities in the Niger Delta and hoped that the menace receive the attention of government and the relevant agencies.
In his speech, the author, Chief Nengi James, who is also the Chairman of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) in Bayelsa, said he was inspired to write on the effects of ocean encroachment following years of observation, studies and research on coastal communities across the region.
According to James, the effects of ocean encroachment have become a challenge to governments at all levels, relevant agencies and environmental activists to address in order to protect the land and the environment.
James stated: “The term ‘oceanification’ is used to illustrate the effects of the encroachment of the ocean on both non-human and man’s existence. The menace has continued to wash away farmlands, communities and related infrastructure, thereby rendering people homeless particularly those in communities around the fringes of the ocean and seas.
“Oceanification is being instigated by the multinational oil and gas companies operating offshore of the region. It is also linked with the aggressive activities of deforestation by companies and individuals.”