A renowned environmentalist, Mr. Nnimmo Bassey, has said that over 6.5million people involved in fishing-related activities in the Niger Delta are threatened by oil industry which employs some 5,000 people.
Bassey made this known during a one-day summit in Yenagoa on Wednesday with the theme, “Key Indices for Visionary Leadership, Good Governance and Sustainable Development in Bayelsa State’.
The summit was organised by the G24 Embasara Foundation, a pan-Ijaw group committed to new leadership and governance initiative in Bayelsa and Ijaw land.
Delivering a paper on theme of the forum, the environmentalist highlighted that the debilitating impact of oil and gas exploration and production had distorted the bio-diversity of the region.
He said the environment of the region had suffered adverse degradation resulting in “ecocide” due to lack of leadership with interest in protecting the environment as well as weak regulatory environmental institutions.
Bassey stressed the need for re-ordering of priorities and adoption of new approaches to environmental sustainability by political leaderships that are prepared to evolve new social communities.
He said, “Oil production depletes environmental resources; for every barrel of oil, there is over 13 barrels of toxic effluents that come from the oil wells and nobody gives account of these wastes which the oil firms discharge into the environment.
“How has the 13 per cent derivation accruing to the oil-producing states been utilised? What we see is that the resources are used to develop the urban centres while the rural areas are left behind to wallow in abject poverty.
“The attitude of our leaders in the Niger Delta region has made the environmental component of the Petroleum Industry Bill to be at the background rather than in the forefront.
“We have about 6.5 million people involved in fishing-related activities threatened by the oil industry which employs some 5,000 people. Our leaders should think of the jobs of the majority and channel resources to developing renewable energy.”
He rationalised that there is no future for fossil fuels which would be depleted in a few decades since the world had advanced with cars that run without oil being produced by the developed nations.
Bassey called on the Niger Delta people to change their attitude and refrain from pipeline vandalism, oil theft and illegal oil refining which further pollute and degrade their environment.
Some stakeholders at the summit including the Convener and former Commissioner for Environment in Bayelsa, Mr. Iniruo Wills, expressed concern over issues of poor leadership and bad governance by public office holders in the state over the years.
They called for a review of the recruitment process for political leadership in order to make public office holders answerable and accountable to the people.
Specifically, Wills said the initiative was developing Ijaw nation code of ethics, leadership and governance which prospective political office-holders must subscribe to.
He said that the group was also interested in building leadership capacity to prepare Ijaw people for leadership positions.
Chairman of the occasion, Amba Ambaiowei, said that members of the group were worried about the under-development in Ijaw land with the people not having access to basic social amenities.
He described the G24 Embasara Foundation as non-partisan, saying the group was out to ensure that persons who had shown poor leadership qualities in the executive and legislative arms of government were not voted into office, henceforth.
Ambaiowei, a former Commissioner for Education and Labour in the old Rivers State, said the group would scrutinise the competences of Ijaw people seeking public offices.