Bayelsa State governor, Senator Douye Diri, on Monday at far away Dubai raised the alarm that the Niger Delta and other Deltas and Wetlands across the world are at the verge of extinction.
He spoke at the on-going Climate Change convention, COP 28, holding at Dubai. He said it was worrisome that adequate attention was not being paid to the situation in the Niger Delta, even as he said with the convergence of stakeholders for the convention, there was hope in sight.
“That we can gather in this picturesque city of Dubai from all over the world at this time underscores our sense of commitment and determination to save our planet. I must state, as earlier underlined by the leader of the entire Nigerian delegation, His Excellency President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, that the new global compact, which is emerging from COP 28, gives us all hope for a better tomorrow.
“This is why I join leaders, especially of sub -nationals, from some of the most vulnerable and impacted communities, the DELTAs, to re-echo a clarion call. We need little activism to restate that the world’s deltas and wetlands are increasingly facing extinction,” he said.
According to the govenor, “from my own Niger Delta, the impact of climate change continues to wreak unimaginable havoc on our environment, ecosystem, and human resources. Unlike other regions of planet Earth, our plight is confounded from both ends, creating a case of “double jeopardy.”
“On the one hand, rising incidents of flooding and land degradation from torrential rainfalls and inland water systems are common places. In recent years, such mobster floods, rising unimaginable levels, have left footprints in my home Bayelsa State, and many other places in the Niger Delta in Nigeria. Such specific reports have also come from other river deltas across the world.
“The oceans around our deltas have therefore continued to mount an unprecedented assault on our fishing ports, villages, and towns. In the past few years, at least twenty (20) of our coastal communities in my state have become almost submerged or lost a substantial amount of land to the surging and rising sea waters. These include Agge, Akassa, Agoro, Brass, Ekine, Ezetu, Foropa, Kolokuma 1 & 2, Odioama, Okpoma, etc.
“According to the scientific reports from our experts, between 1991 and 2018, the shorelines of Bayelsa, its neighbours , Rivers State and Akwa Ibom State, witnessed considerable retreat and erosion, with respective measurements of 81,532 metres, 17,519 metres and 8,590 metres. The rates of shoreline migration and erosion were recorded at 11.1 metres per year, 7.2 metres per year and 5.5 metres per year.
“In the context of erosion along the Nigerian coast, Bayelsa alone accounted for 66.6% of the erosion and shoreline retreat, while Rivers and Akwa Ibom contributed 14.43% and 10.63%, respectively.”
The governor used the platform to draw the world’s attention to the havoc caused by flood in Bayelsa State over the years. He said: “In October 2022, my State encountered devastating floods, resulting in the near submersion of the entire state, including its capital city, Yenagoa. The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria and Representative of the Secretary General, Mr Matthias Schmale, at my invitation, visited Bayelsa and accompanied me on a tour of some of the flood-impacted communities. At the end of the tour, he observed, and I quote: “What I saw reminded me of the images I saw of Pakistan; and the world took note of that. This is a crisis of major proportion that deserves everyone’s attention.”
“Individuals lost their lives, homes, farmlands and livelihoods. As a government, we could not turn a blind eye to the myriad of challenges and sought proactive solutions. This has rendered governance more financially burdensome, an issue that warrants global focus and intervention. As leaders, it is incumbent upon us to devise effective short and long term solutions such as sustenance, shelter, alternative educational facilities for children, and the protection of vulnerable members of society, particularly the girl child.
“During my visits to affected communities, I recognized the urgency in managing our deltas, water bodies, sea-level rise, biodiversity, and the consequential livelihood losses of our mangroves, as well as the pollution of our deltas. These endeavours will significantly contribute to addressing food insecurity, hunger, migration, and the associated settlements and conflicts.
“Projections indicate that a one-meter rise in sea levels in Nigeria could compel up to 80 per cent of the delta’s population to seek higher ground just as flooded 18,000 km2 of land results in damages valued at US$9 billion, and necessitate the relocation of up to 3.7 million people. These alarming consequences of climate change are not limited to the Nigerian Niger Delta region but are shared by coastal deltas worldwide.”
He said there was the need for unity of purpose in the fight against the extinction of the Delta. “This is why we join in the “Deltas Unite” to cry to the rest of the world to work with us to address this situation.
“The government of Bayelsa State will, therefore, continue to support and give priority attention to all activities and programmes of Deltas Unite. While this effort at our end is directly domiciled in the Office of the Executive Governor, we will continue to assemble the best of technical, professional, and administrative expertise.
“In this vein, I would like to announce the readiness of the government of Bayelsa State to host the Inaugural International Summit of the Deltas in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Nigeria in 2024. This will enable our various experts, who by the way have done incredible work so far, to further interface and articulate our common positions on the pertinent issues. Of outmost priority is the need to bring our plight to the front burner as a major thematic issue, especially a United Nations Convention for Conserving River Deltas (UN- CCRD).”