Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has identified the need for Nigeria to adopt environmental safety policy for oil exploration, explaining that oil companies operating in the country must comply with best practices in the industry as obtainable in other parts of the world.
Speaking while receiving members the Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas (HOSCON) who paid him a courtesy visit at the Government House, Benin City, Tuesday,
Governor Oshiomhole said “compensation cannot provide lasting solution to the problem of pollution in Nigeria. He said,”For me, you can’t pay me to poison me. How much is money worth in the face of someone that is dying, in a world that is easily characterized by all kinds of diseases, many of them not curable? Can money mitigate a disease that is not curable? Can money mitigate cancer and the pains of cancer? There are things that money cannot do. Therefore, I still do believe that the government must insist that every Nigerian including those in the oil communities are entitled to clean air; they are entitled to clean water; they are entitled to clean environment. And pollution is nothing inevitable, and compensation is not the first priority. The first priority is all oil companies must be compelled to observe international standard. I have had the opportunity to travel around the world. I have seen cases in America where oil is produced, and you will think it is a playing garden. It is about investing in technology and being ready to spend a little more. There is no reason why Nigeria should keep flaring gas in the 21st century. Not only are we burning money, it does not make sense, and we are also polluting the environment. And it does not economic sense to pay for pollution. It makes sense, and the smartest thing to do is to prevent pollution. And I think that together we can fight to break that cabal, that those who have the skill to explore oil can do so, but we have the right to be protected against pollution, against spillage and to have our water ways protected and all of those things which I fear might do damage to us in the long run.”
The Governor said, “So, I believe that we must join forces to fight against pollution, whether of the air, of the land, of the water ways and of anything. And I fear that twenty, fifty years down the road, or even a hundred years down the road, when the oil would have dried up, the pollution that has occurred now will live with us, and the nation state will not have the resources to clean up the pollution and to make that land available for our great grandchildren yet unborn. So, that is why for me, every effort must be made to stop the pollution. The campaign should be: stop the pollution, not pay for the pollution because money is useless to a man that is dead; money is useless to a man who is deformed; money is much more useless to a man or woman that is affected by cancer and all other kinds of incurable diseases. Money doesn’t buy health. Therefore, we must do everything possible to convince the oil producing companies, but much more importantly, to get Nigerians to adopt this as a state policy that pollution is not something that we can live with any more. Reacting to the issue of compensation, he said, “We have derivation, we have OMPADEC, we have NDDC, we have Ministry of Niger Delta. And there are all kinds of financial provisions. Unfortunately, all of us in this hall will agree that when you look at those figures on the surface, it would appear that a lot of naira and dollars has flown into the sub-region, but they have not been spent in a manner that deliver relief to the people of the region. And that is why we need to be very careful on how we couch our language and how we identify those we should focus on.”
Governor Oshiomhole advocated for the emergence of a more patriotic elite in the South-South region. He said, “For me, what I see, I have been in government and I am much more convinced
about it, is that we do need a more patriotic elite even in the South-South sub-region to recognize that we the elite of the South-South, whereas we identify ourselves as the champions of the South-South, what is appropriated in the name of the South-South tends to end up not on the lapse of the people of the South-South, but in the deepening pocket of a very few. And if this tradition continues, we will continue to have the paradox of a rich sub-region pauperized, dehumanized and frustrated by all of the things that you talked about earlier – pollution, degradation, you name it. I think we need a completely new approach.”
Speaking earlier, the National Chairman, Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas (HOSCON) Prince Dr. Mike Emuh (JP) said they were in Edo State because of the current crisis in the Niger Delta region. According to him, “All that the host communities are saying to our children, the Niger Delta, the men and women, is that we are for peace and for development. It is an indisputable fact that an average community knows who is bad, who is good, who is mad and who is not. Every village knows that. I told the nation that we the parent body of the Niger Delta cannot deny the fact that the children belong to us, and because they belong to us, we know their pains. And because we know their pains, and they know our pains, we want to go for a dialogue”.
“He continued, “We have asked our children to sheath their sword for four weeks; the Federal Government gave them two weeks. We so much appreciate the Federal Government policy. The Minister of State for Petroleum has tried. We looked up and down within the Niger Delta and the governors in Nigeria, and we deemed it fit that we have a governor who has brought great transformation, who has transformed Benin City to be a semi-New York, a semi-London and a semi-Paris. Your Excellency, keep it up. Our Children want to listen to us, and they are saying who will go for us? We cried to the traditional rulers and we rubbed our minds together, and it was agreed that we should run to you to stand for the children, to stand for the Niger Delta between the host communities and the federal government in the dialogue. The children, either the volunteers, either the Niger Delta Avengers, MEND, the twenty five groups are listening to us and are waiting for us.”
He appealed to Governor Oshiomhole to help them to press for the release of the gas flaring fund for environmntal pollution in the Niger Delta. He said, “This money is paid as a result of corrosion, pollution, environmental degradation, industrial pollution, health hazard and destruction of the ecosystem, and so on. Your Excellency, we are appealing to you to use your good offices to remind the federal government to release this money to the host communities.” He said they had scheduled a three-day national workshop in Benin to provide a unique opportunity for all stakeholders to discuss critical issues affecting the Niger Delta