Port Harcourt — The Association of Environmental Lawyers of Nigeria, AELN, has charged the Federal Government to take urgent steps to check the increased toxicity of the nation’s territorial waters.
Similarly, the Centre for Environmental Preservation and Development, CEPAD, says oil multinationals could be conspiring with the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, to hoodwink Nigerians on the real cause of dead fishes littering the Atlantic coastline of the region.
This is as NOSDRA had announced that heavy metals from industrial and domestic wastes was behind the continuous death of croaker fish specie in the Niger Delta coastline, and not hydrocarbon waste from oil firms.
But the Centre for Environmental Preservation and Development, said the announcement by NOSDRA suggests that there is no transparency in the report from the agency.
Chairman, CEPAD Board of Trustees, Furoebi Akene, wondered why government and stakeholders in the affected states where not carried along by NOSDRA in the purported investigation.
Akene wondered why NOSDRA would title their findings as “alleged” whereas the agency had earlier confirmed the collection of samples including dead fishes and water in the affected states.
“The release by the Director-General of NOSDRA, Mr. Idris Olubola Musa dated 13th May 2020 captioned ‘Alleged Mass Fish Kill Along The Coastline of Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers States’ suggests that there is no transparency in the so called report by his Agency.
“From the opening word “Alleged” simply implies that his agency did not see the dead fishes along the coastline, then how come he in another statement saying they took samples of dead fishes to the laboratory?
“If I may ask, are the Government of the States whose citizens suffer the impacts that may result to likely epidemics not good enough to be stake holders to collaborate with in this investigation? The likelihood of some sinister motives is not ruled out.
“I will not hesitate to point out that this is exactly the pattern NOSDRA uses in perpetrating their conspiracies with their other conspirators; the oil multinationals. I wish to let everybody know that NOSDRA doesn’t have any laboratory so all their exploits are done by their hired consultants who’d dance to the dictates of the agency.
“I will implore NOSDRA to make public the laboratory were the analyses took place. If they are serious to really get to the root of this matter, there are some Government Agencies that have well equipped laboratories including the Universities and other research institutes, so why not use the synergy of Government Agencies?”
CEPAD stated that NOSDRA by its report implies that the agencies responsible for the regulation of the nation’s waterways and fishing activities in the Atlantic are not doing their job.
Also, AELN has expressed concerns over the looming public health danger occasioned by the contamination and massive death of fish along the Atlantic coastline of the region.
The group in a joint statement by Prof. Sam Dike, the President AELN and Mr Iniuro Wills, the President Ijaw Professionals Association, called on the Federal Government to urgently initiate a full scale independent investigation into the matter with a view to saving lives.
The association noted that in the last eight weeks, varying from location to location, communities along the Atlantic coast in the Niger Delta had been inundated with masses of dead contaminated fishes washing up on their shores.
”This strange phenomenon portends grave danger to the affected states and communities as it will further compound the public health and economic complications that they are still struggling to grapple with as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
”Due to limited awareness of the health consequences, rural poverty and slow action by governments at all levels, some community dwellers have been selling and consuming the dead contaminated fishes, some of which may find their way into the markets and meal tables, in neighbouring communities and cities.
”It is against this backdrop that we are calling on the Federal Government to promptly institute a full scale independent investigation of this marine pollution disaster by a multi stakeholder panel of experts, reflecting the appropriate environmental and marine related agencies.
“It should include experts representing affected communities, relevant state government agencies, the private sector of the petroleum and marine/maritime industries and credible environmental NGOs..
”At the conclusion of investigations, all persons or organisations directly culpable (if any), for this disaster on our coastal populations, no matter how highly connected, should be brought to book” the association said.
Meanwhile, NOSDRA has maintained that its investigations on the massive death of the fishes in the region traces the incident to the discharge of toxic industrial and domestic wastes entering the water bodies.
Director-General of the NOSDRA, Idris Musa, said that the agency discovered that the dead fishes and water sediments were polluted by heavy metals in high concentrations beyond regulatory limits.