08 March 2012, Sweetcrude, Yenagoa –The Chairman of the Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas (HOSCOM) Bayelsa State chapter, Chief Bob Nabena says the establishment of the Bayelsa State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (BASOPADEC) would help in riding the creeks of the state of illegal refinery operators.
Lamenting what he described as ‘the large scale self inflicted environmental degradation’ by oil thieves and illegal refinery operators in the creek of the state, the HOSCOM boss blamed the development on the endemic poverty among the rural people.
Chief Nabena in an interview with Vanguard in Yenagoa noted that though the group and the past administration were at loggerheads over the creation of the agency he expressed optimism that the Seriake Dickson led administration would hearken to the demand of the HOSCOM by establishing BASOPADEC.
This, according to him, would not only accelerate development in the oil producing communities but also help curb illegal refinery operations as the rural enclave would become a huge construction yard with the people meaningfully engaged.
HOSCOM, he noted had done a detailed study on how best to curb the activities of the illegal refinery operators who are not only exploiting the poverty situation in the communities to cajole the locals in supporting their nefarious trade but are also further compounding the woes of the already fragile environment.
Convinced that the establishment of BASOPADEC would stimulate economic activities in the rural communities he said “the money to fund the communities is from the fund due to host communities.”
According to him, “We are only asking that 50 per cent of the derivation funds, accruing to the state from the Federation Account be utilised to fund communities. That will ensure free medical clinics for host communities, micro- credit loans to the women, youth and even the men to embark on small scale businesses, scholarship for our youths in schools and those yet to gain admission, local and abroad.
“Also it would encompass skill acquisition that will train and retrain the youths for viable employment generally. Above all, the communities will also provide gainful employment for the host communities apart from them also being on the board and management of BASOPADEC.
“It would ensure that all communities in Bayelsa State live a very comfortable life with all the basic necessities in place, particularly standard habits, good and safe environment and it will discourage the people from accommodating illegal refinery operators to operate in their environment.”
He recalled that when the HOSCOM executives were inaugurated in the communities it was clearly spelt out that they should not encourage illegal refineries and pipeline vandalisation in their respective communities because of the adverse impact on the environment.
On the environmental despoliation in the rural enclave occasioned by the activities of illegal refinery operators he said, “anywhere crude oil touches the ground nothing grows on the ground again. Now they use unauthorized vessels and wooden boats to steal crude oil from the pipelines and these things are leaking as they convey their consignment from the creeks to their illegal refining points and in the process they pollute the whole water.
“When they now get to their location because they don’t even have the technology to transfer the crude oil they resort to their crude technology in getting it to where the cooking is done and the process of cooking a whole lot of things happened, fire hazard, the crude oil itself spill all over the ground, some of the human beings cooking this crude are by accident roasted alive.”
“If there were BASOPADEC in place the people have no business going into illegal refinery business as they would have been meaningfully engaged but because they have no jobs they are easily recruited by the oil barons.
“Our people see it as opportunity to feed themselves and their children without knowing the harm they are causing to not only themselves, their children and the environment but also to generations yet unborn. The environmental problems caused by us must be stopped and the fight against this menace could only be won if the government establish BASOPADEC which would ensure that oil and gas bearing host and impacted communities duly receive benefits due them from the Federal , State, Local Government, indigenous and multinational oil and gas prospecting and producing companies operating in and around their respective areas.