Posted by News Express | 23 February 2016 | 3,312 times
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has decried the inability of oil companies to attend to environmental degradations in the country.
The commission’s Executive Secretary, Prof. Bem Angwe, made this known when he inaugurated a special investigative panel on oil spills and environmental pollution in Nigeria in Abuja on Monday.
Angwe said that the committee was set up following a myriad of petitions to the commission on oil spills and environmental pollution.
“Several communities from the South-South geo-political zone have inundated the commission with complaints on oil spills and environmental degradation by oil companies operating in their communities.
“The complainants alleged that most of these oil spills were either improperly cleaned or no effort was made to clean them at all resulting in damage to both aquatic life and farmlands.”
He said the commission had carried out on the spot assessment of the allegations to verify the authenticity of the complaints as well as the seriousness of the situation.
He said it was after the assessment that the commission deemed it necessary to set up the panel to conduct a public hearing on the matter with a view to finding lasting solutions.
The Chairman of the panel, Mrs Oti Ovrawah, said that oils spills no doubt had grave consequences on the environment.
“There is no doubt that oil spills have environmental consequences and oils spills also have human rights implication and that is why the commission is involved.”
Ovrawah gave the assurance that the committee would work assiduously to investigate the complaints and make appropriate recommendations within the shortest possible time.
Mr Ufot Phenson, President General, Akwa Ibom Oil Producing Community Development Network (AKIPCON), told newsmen that the situation in the communities was a
threat to the lives of the people.
Phenson noted that if the situation was not addressed properly, the agitations and restiveness currently being experienced, would get out of control.
“We have written to the oil companies in regard to the hardship they are putting us through.
“I am talking about Mobil in particular. Shell also has an oil well that exploded in 2006 and spilled into farmlands but there has been no clean up and no compensation to the people.
“Youths have become restive and security that we are known for is threatened.
“I hope the commission will help us to achieve a better environment because we want our environment to be clean.
“The abuse on human lives and the environment is getting out of hand as farmers can no longer plant their crops and fishermen can no longer make any catch.”
He alleged that there was a strong conspiracy between the government and the oil companies since they had complained earlier but nothing was done.
“We wrote to National Oil Spill Detection Agency (NOSDRA), we wrote to the presidency and past and present governors of Akwa Ibom.
“We also wrote to Ministry of Environment in the state all to no avail.
“So, coming to the commission is our last resort, and we hope the panel will investigate the atrocities and help bring succuor to us because it is a crime against humanity and must be stopped in the interest of our existence.’’
Some of the terms of reference of the panel, include to consider all complaints on oil spillage and similar activities of oil pollution of the environment.
The others include to invite memoranda from members of the public on any action, inaction, omission or negligence leading to oil spillage, non-payment or wrongful payment of compensation.
The committee is also to find out persons responsible for any acts of alleged environmental pollution or degradation and to make recommendations as to measures to prevent future occurrences and victims compensation.
The panel has three months to complete the assignment. (NAN)
•Photo shows Niger Delta Area
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