Port Harcourt — The Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF has urged the government at all levels to stop prioritizing the revenue and royalty gained from oil and gas operators in the Niger Delta, over the environment and the lives of the people.
To this end, HOMEF has tasked the incoming federal government to as a matter of priority, respond to the needs of the people of the Niger Delta by protecting the environment, since the people depend on the environment for a living.
Renowned environmental rights advocate and Director of HOMEF, Dr Nnimmo Bassey, said it was completely unacceptable that local communities in the Niger Delta drink water from polluted streams and rivers, as well as breathe polluted air.
Bassey spoke during a one-day capacity building in Amonogo Biri, Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State, organised for communities on how to combat and provide solutions to the persistent environmental pollution caused by the refinery, oil and petrochemical companies operating in the area.
He added government are the major players when it comes to the degradation of the environment as they are only after the exploration of natural resources at the expense of the poor masses whose livelihood are being destroyed totally.
He added that the workshop was imperative to build the capacity of community people to confront their government and oil operators over the pollution in the area, as well as to enhance the ability of the people to speak up against environmental degradation.
“I think it is big embarrassment that we have government at all levels in those areas and we don’t see any concern for the environment.
“This is one thing that is very wrong in this country, government tends to see natural resources as things to be exploited at any cost, so the environment is destroyed, the resources are taken, and foreign exchange are made.
“When the environment is destroyed the lives of the people are also destroyed, and if people are not able to thrive in their community, then whatsoever financial gains the government makes is equal to blood money.
“The incoming government must respond to the needs of the people, protecting the environment should be the number one responsibility of government because people depend on the environment for a living. People drink water from polluted streams and rivers, people are farming in polluted land, people are breathing polluted air. This is completely unacceptable.”
Earlier, some members of the community who narrated their experience, complained that the presence of the oil companies around them has brought nothing but pains and sorrow, following the negative impacts the industries has had on their aquatic life.
A fisherman, Fyneface Daka, said that even the fishes caught from the river are polluted, since the water itself was highly polluted from chemical and toxic wastes discharged by Port Harcourt refinery and Indorama petrochemicals.
“We are predominantly fishermen. We are all suffering from pollution arising from gas flaring. If you wash your clothes and spray outside, flames and soot will cover it in few hours. Even the water is polluted, meaning that even the fishes we eat are from polluted too.”
Highpoint of the workshop was the inauguration of FishNet Alliance in Okrika, for the promotion of sustainable fishing in line with ecosystem limits, and environmental advocacy.
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