By Brave Dickson
An international non-governmental organization known as Hephzibah Global Initiative (HeGin) has faulted the report released by the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission that 16,000 infants die annually from oil pollution in the Niger Delta region.
The commission had recently released a report where it said that oil and gas pollution caused by the activities of multinational oil companies in the Niger Delta puts to death about 16,000 infants living in the region on annual basis.
The Chairman of the commission and Archbishop of York, England, Dr John Sentamu, who was quoted by Daily Trust Newspaper to have disclosed this while presenting the interim report on the Commission’s findings to Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, indicted oil companies operating in the region, describing their actions as nothing less than environmental genocide.
He said that his commission is partnering with industries and environmental experts to investigate the impact of oil spills as well as the environmental and social damage done by International oil companies operating in Bayelsa State, adding that oil companies are heaping environmental devastation on the people of the region.
In her reaction, the Visioner of the NGO, Pastor (Mrs) Asher Benson described the figure as an attempt to be conservative saying that more than the reported 16,000 infants die annually from oil population in the region.
She said: “I do not agree with that report. Maybe they are trying to be a little more conservative. I think we have more than 16,000 infants in the region. In the Niger Delta, we are going to have a lot of issues as a result of oil pollution. If you touch anything, you will see the black surface. If you travel through the water, you will see the fumes on it. And all of them come back to what we eat, drink and the air we breathe.
“Yes, it is a risk because these children and their organs are tender. We can’t even tell for now that we are not seeing the resultant effect in full and we can also not statistically tell what will happen in the next five, ten years. It is really a bad situation and adults are equally suffering too, not just the children.”
Worthy of note is the fact that since the first oil well was discovered and drilled in Nigeria by Shell in Bayelsa State in 1956, the oil-rich state had rarely benefitted from oil but has mostly been faced with the destruction of its environment. Its rivers and farmlands are constantly being polluted with crude oil and a host of health problems including the on-going deaths of children.