Former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Timi Alaibe, has sympathised with the people of Opu-Nembe in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, over the devastating oil spill in their community.
Alaibe, said the oil spill from Aiteo’s facility has rendered the people poorer because of the loss of economic and social life, noting that the attendant health challenges posed by the spill is also an issue for concern.
He lamented that “the oil that is supposed to help develop the communities and decorate them with skyscrapers, has become the reason for generational afflictions. The people of Nembe do not deserve this avoidable environmental affliction”.
The former NDDC boss further said: “There is no doubt that this oil spill has the capacity to result in health hazards that would eventually lead to loss of lives. Let me repeat that the good people of Bayelsa State, the oil-bearing centre of Nigeria, do not in any way deserve this catastrophe.
“Irrespective of numerous reasons cited by industry experts for the spill, the affected communities are dead economically and socially. The land has turned infertile. Nothing can grow there any longer. The rivers are polluted forever. Our fishermen are out of work. Our hard-working farmers have been rendered jobless. In the absence of clean, pipe-borne water for the people, a commodity that is taken for granted in other climes, today, with this oil spill, not even the river water is worth any domestic use any longer.
“In other words, the peoples sources of livelihood have been completely destroyed; even their lives are in danger. This is no exaggeration. We have seen it happen repeatedly all over the Niger Delta. For the oil exploring and exploiting companies, its business as usual. Soon, the noise will end. Attention would be diverted to other pressing state matters. The people would be left to suffer and die in silence”.
Alaibe, commended the Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor for her honest comment on the spill, saying her call for stiffer penalties on the firm and succour for the people is encouraging.
He said: “The difference this time is that for the first time, a government minister, Sharon Ikeazor, has spoken strongly in support of the need to protect the oil-bearing communities. In her words, this goes beyond oil companies giving palliatives to the communities. It requires putting measures in place to prevent such accidents from happening at all. She has called for stiffer penalties for those responsible for these acts of sabotage.
“To my fellow citizens of Nembe, words are not enough to describe your agony and hopelessness. Be assured that you are not alone. My appeal to you is that in spite of this, please stay calm as we join hands with the appropriate authorities to seek the way out of this mess.
“No blame game can reverse what has happened. No act of violence can bring back what we have lost. We all share in your pain. This is no time for dirty political grandstanding. This situation needs a practical solution. The people in charge of policy must rise and act now”.