Dickson sets inquiry into Bayelsa oil spills

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Samuel Nkemakolem, Yenagoa

Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson has set up a commission to investigate the negative impact of oil exploration on the state.

The  Environmental Degradation Commission of Inquiry  is headed by  the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.

A former President of Ghana, John Kufuor; British diplomat Baroness Amos of Brondesbury ;and Daniel Onifade are members of the commission.

Others are a former  Bayelsa State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Wodu Kemesuode; Prof Engine Emeseh; Prof Roland Holder; and Dr Kathryn Nwajiaku-Dohou.

Dickson,  who inaugurated the commission on Wednesday at the  Government House, said the commission would   submit its report  in nine months’ time.

The governor  also said the commission had the powers to conduct private hearings within and outside the country.

He said   the committee  would  investigate  the  circumstances surrounding oil spills and their environmental and human impacts.

Dickson said, “As  the governor of the oldest and largest onshore oil producing state in Nigeria, I represent people that have been unduly affected by this corporate negligence. It is on behalf of the people of Bayelsa State that I have set up this commission.”

He added, “Oil and gas exploration and extraction have  had an incalculable impact on the people and environment of Bayelsa State. It has threatened  livelihoods and economies, impeded agricultural development, fuelled health disorders and caused tensions in the social fabric of our communities. The people of Bayelsa State have paid too high a price for the growth of Nigeria’s oil sector, without reaping any significant benefit.”

In his acceptance speech,  Sentamu commended Dickson for  the commission.

The state  Commissioner for Environment, Ebi Epaingolo, said  a team of forensic expert commissioned in 2012 to study the impact of oil pollution  in the state confirmed that the environment had been destroyed by the activities of oil  companies.

He said,  “It will interest you to know that no adequate compensation has been paid to any community in form of carcinogenic hydrocarbons. They no longer fish as  the streams and rivers are polluted.”

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