From TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and other environmental stakeholders have chided the international oil companies (IOCs) for the health challenges of people of Niger Delta and their polluted environment, and the emerging divestments.
They expressed this at an event  with the media  on the Motives Behind IOCs Divestments in the Niger Delta, organised by Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria,
held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on Monday.
The stakeholders expressed worries that 70 years after oil extraction in the region and its adverse effect on the area, there was  emerging indication of more problems in Niger Delta.
In his address, Executive Director, ERA, Chima Williams, said the level of environmental polluted, which Niger Delta region has suffered in the hands multinational oil companies was incomparable globally.
Williams  stated that  the activities of IOCs in the have destroyed the aquatic  life in the Niger Delta and shortened life span of the people.
ERA maintained that the IOCs’ claim that militant activities  had adverse consequences on their  operations was a mere smokescreen.
Similarly, Executive Director, We the People, Ken Henshaw, in his presentation, said oil companies were scrambling to divest because it provides them an opportunity to abdicate their years of responsibility for the ecological damage in the region.
He said: “After over 70 years of oil extraction and the devastating impacts it has had on oil producing communities, there are emerging indications that the people’s quest for ecological and resource justice may never be achieved.
“While frontline communities and civil society organizations have made significant effort in highlighting the ecological, social and economic conditions in the region, new pressures are now emerging from the divestment moves by multinational oil companies that portend further calamities for oil producing communities.”
Henshaw further noted: “Oil companies are divesting from onshore oil fields and moving further offshore and away from communities, while national companies are buying off the oilfields left by the oil majors without clear provisions about who is liable for historical contaminations and related socio-ecological issues.
“The over 30 million people who live in the oil and gas producing Niger Delta have not benefitted from the huge amounts of resources pumped from beneath their lands, rivers and creeks. Rather than engender better welfare, infrastructure, healthcare, education and security, revenues from oil and gas have instead driven an unusual paradigm of poverty, conflict, repression and underdevelopment.
“The Nigerian government and its subnational affiliates have mostly failed to lift the people out of poverty and underdevelopment. A long history of mismanagement, corruption, elite capture and oil company complicity has made communities in the region among the least developed in the country.
“Despite their appreciably higher revenue accruals, states of the Niger Delta do not fare relatively better in terms of infrastructure and other development indicators.”
Former Commissioner for Environment in Bayelsa State, Iniruo Wills, noted soot in Port Harcourt and its environs, as a major effect of environmental pollution, adding that the years of illegal oil exploration in the Niger Delta is an indication of conspiracy.
He expressed: “Port Harcourt is an open gas chamber with the existence of soot. We live in a gas chamber in Port Harcourt.
“If this madness (illegal oil activities) has been going on, it is not just the government, it is not just the OICs it. It is not just the communities. But, somebody must take responsibility for what is happening. That responsibility is lacking in everyone.”

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Source: news