Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson on Thursday accused international oil companies of brazenly destroying the Niger Delta environment without adherence to international best practices in their activities.
He also accused the oil companies of causing high infant mortality rate in the region.
According to a press statement issued by the Bayelsa State Government, Dickson said a United Nations survey revealed that crude oil spillage causes the death of over 16,000 infants within the first month of birth in the Niger Delta.
Dickson reportedly said that the Niger Delta environment was in turmoil with the livelihood of the people in peril because of the insensitive degradation of the environment by international oil firms who are driven solely by a quest to make money.
He said the flagrant abuse of the Niger Delta environment as clearly shown by available statistical evidence, which indicated that about 40 million barrels of crude oil are spilled into the damaged environment of the Niger Delta as opposed to four million barrels in the United States.
He lamented that oil production had reduced life expectancy in Bayelsa and other oil producing states in Nigeria by 10 years below the national average.
The governor was quoted in the statement signed by the state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, that the state government would intensify proactive measures to attract necessary attention to what he called the mindless destruction of the Niger Delta environment and the people’s means of livelihood by the oil firms.
The governor also inaugurated a 10-man Commission of Inquiry on Environmental Degradation under the chairmanship of the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu.
He said the panel “of highly reputable local and foreign experts” had a nine-point mandate to investigate “the environmental, health, socio-economic, cultural and human damage caused by operations of both local and multinational oil companies.”
The commission has a mandate to hold public and private hearing and submit the report of its finding in nine months.
The committee comprises of a former president of Ghana, Dr. John Kufour, Baroness Valerie Amos, Prof. Engobo Emeseh; Dr. Anna Zalik, Dr. Kathryn Nwajiaku-Dahou (Secretary); Prof. Roland Hodler and Prof. Michael Watts, while a former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Kemasuode Wodu, will serve as its legal counsel.