Society Organisations, Health Of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, and ‘We The People’ have said that the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria is the most polluted region in the world.

The groups called on stakeholders in the oil sector to take action on the ongoing divestments from onshore assets.

Rising from their advocacy program on Saturday, March 19, where the two organisations facilitated a discourse for the Niger Delta communities and Civil Society activists on the Petroleum Industry Act, PIA, the Civil Society groups described m the Niger Delta as an ecological bomb.

The Director of HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey, described the business of oil extraction as a “mix of corporate greed and State-backed repression.”

According to him, the region is one of the most polluted places in the world and called on the people of the region to rise and demand ecological justice.

Bassey stated that; “with over 1,481 wells, 275 flow stations, over 7,000 kilometres of oil and gas pipelines and over 120 gas flare furnaces, the Niger Delta is an ecological bomb”.

“While it is important that people living in locations, where investors, governments or institutions carry out projects are consulted, in the Niger Delta, this has never been the case.

“The informed consent of the people has never been sought or received. These relations of production have remained largely the same from pre-colonial to colonial and present neo-colonial times.

“Even in decisions regarding investments, development, or even infrastructural projects, there is wilful neglect and refusal to consult or engage the people in decision making processes.

“Projects are often thrown at communities even when they are not the priority needs of the people. Little wonder that the projects get abandoned during construction or are left to rot after completion,” Bassey said.

In a statement, Ms. Kome Odhomor, HOMEF’s Media and Communication Lead, explained that the event provided an open space to discuss recent happenings around divestments, where the biggest oil companies in the Niger Delta are selling off their assets and going farther offshore.

Also speaking, Ken Henshaw of ‘We The People’ while reflecting on the PIA and the new frenzied divestment moves by oil companies, added that while the PIA establishes a Host Communities Development Framework to transfer benefits to communities, it doesn’t however allow communities any decent participation in managing the fund.

Henshaw observed that the communities, also lacks the powers of determining who runs the trust.

“Oil companies are given overriding powers to manage the 3% of operational costs contributed to the trust in any manner they deem appropriate; as well as determine which communities qualify to be ‘hosts’.

“Similarly, the managers of the funds are not even required by the PIA to be from the host communities. In an outrageous demonstration of the criminalization of communities.

Henshaw disclosed that act of vandalism, sabotage and other civil unrest occurs every year and that it causes damage to petroleum and some designated facilities.

He also said that such acts disrupts production activities within the host communities, adding that the communitied during that period, forfeits its entitlement to the extent that the cost of repairs of the damages resulted from the activities with respect to the provisions of the Act within that financial year.

He observed that this provision stems directly from the erroneous view which has been peddled by oil companies that communities are responsible for sabotage on the pipelines and oil theft.

“However, this view has been debunked by the NNPC and even the United Nations Environment Programme. Both blame equipment failure of spills.

“Criminalising oil producing communities in this regard is very unfortunate and a smokescreen to shield oil companies from their responsibilities for the ongoing ecocide in the region.

“This provision will most likely result in consistent denial of benefits which would in turn engender regular conflicts,” Henshaw noted.

The group stated that gas while the PIA makes it illegal, it nonetheless creates a series of exemptions on gas flaring stressing that the exemptions ensure that the same gas flare regime continues literarily unchecked, and empowers the government to give licenses to oil companies to flare the gas.

“The PIA also does not state a definite date for ending gas flaring. Given the health and environmental challenges associated with gas flaring, this is an unfortunate onslaught on the ecology and health of the people of the region.

“Surprisingly, fines for gas flaring will not directly benefit communities that suffer the impacts. While sections 52 and 104 says that fines for flaring will be used for environmental and health remediation, it prescribes that such payments be made not to the host communities, but to an agency it established, the Midstream and Downstream Gas Infrastructure Funds”, Henshaw disclosed.

“In actual fact, this Agency has no mandate or functions related to environmental remediation. Evidently, the Act considers gas flaring a waste of economic resources which should be paid for, and not an abuse which is impacting the climate, the health and livelihoods of communities.”