Oil communities in Bayelsa State have cried out over what they call the devastating activities of oil companies on their communities. They say instead of blessing, the oil firms have become a source of agony for them.
They narrated their grievances to a special panel set up by the state government to ascertain the effects of oil production activities in various parts of the state. About 60 communities narrated their ordeal to the panel which was headed by Dr John Sentamu.
The panel was said to have visited six ravaged communities in Southern Ijaw, Brass and Yenagoa local government areas of the state. They held a well-attended public evidence session last Friday during which communities gave oral evidence of devastation and neglect by oil companies operating in their areas before submitting documented reports to the panel.
The traditional ruler of Agudama community, MC Kipasa, told the commission that they had recorded several oil spills from the operations of both Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and the Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC), which have seriously affected his community.
"We don't have fish in our river anymore. Even our land for farming is gone. Nothing is left for us due to these oil spills," he lamented just as he thanked Governor Seriake Dickson for giving them hope by setting up the commission.
An Agbura community leader, Chief Igwe Napoleon, while giving evidence said the farmlands and river in his community have been polluted due to oil exploration activities and accused Shell of reneging on the terms of agreement signed with communities in the area.
Stephen Moses from Egbema-Angalabiri also gave evidence of the devastating effects of environmental pollution on his community. He lamented that oil production had become a curse to his community instead of a blessing.
Mr L. A. Eminah, who represented communities where the Obama oil field with about 12 wells are located, also complained about the effects of gas flaring in the area, saying the heat from the flares had resulted in blurred vision among the locals.
Chairman of the commission, in his remarks, decried the lack of political will on the part of the Nigerian government in addressing the environmental devastation in the Niger Delta, saying the time had come for total cleansing and remediation of the affected communities.
"Change must happen even though the laws have not been effective and the issue of compensation have not been addressed. In some communities we visited, it looked like a bomb had been dropped but it was oil spillage.”