…Calls for amendment of the PIA

The Niger Delta Alternative Conversion (NDAC), rose from a National Workshop in Abuja on Wednesday, June 19, 2024 with a call for a review of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) by the National Assembly with the aim of providing a definite deadline for gas flaring, removal of the power to permit gas flaring by the commission and vest it on the National Assembly.

NDAC specifically want the total deletion of the section of the PIA that places the responsibility to protect oil installation on host communities among several others.

This was as the Chairman of NDAC, King Bubaraye Dakolo, said the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) is in every aspect targeted at the people of the oil rich region as it criminalized citizens of the Niger-Delta.

Similarly, Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), called for concerted international action to generate and invest at least US $12 billion over 12 years to repair, remediate and restore the environmental and public health damage caused by oil and gas as well as to lay the foundations for Bayelsa’s just transition towards renewable energy and opportunities for alternative livelihoods

Dakolo, who is the King of Ebenanaiwe of Ekpetiama Kingdom, Agada IV stated this while speaking with Journalists at the Third Edition of The Niger Delta Alternatives Convergence which took place in Abuja on Wednesday, June 19, 2024 with the theme; “NIGER DELTA MANIFESTO, FOR SOCIO ECOLOGICAL JUSTICE”, specifically said that the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) is an anti-people law which took 20 years to cook and mis-cook from what it was before, to a beautiful nonsense the National Assembly passed in 2021, which only succeeded in criminalizing everyone in the Niger Delta.

In the words of Dakolo; “Because they say what the JTF, what the military, trained military experts or trained security experts in Nigeria could not do, I should be held responsible for it.

“Someone like me who did not bring out the hydrocarbon from the ground, who did not put a pipeline there, should be held responsible if there is a stoppage of work if there is abduction of any worker around my kingdom. When somebody can come from as far as Ghana to come and take somebody away and nobody will know.

“Because the truth is with fast boats from in front of my community, you can get to even Miami if you have an unsinkable small boat. That is how porous the system is,” he enthused.

The traditional ruler said that it was on that basis that the Niger Delta Alternatives Convergence was designed to harvest strategies with which to engage the federal government and to also address what the oil and gas industry has meted out to the people of the Niger Delta in a way that the Niger Delta people could again live.

He also said; “For the last 70 years, the people of the Niger Delta have suffered debt by instalments to the point where if you look at the fabrics of our existence in terms of communities, they’ve been destroyed.

“Our homes have been militarized. Our homes have been polluted. Our sources of livelihood have been completely removed. And then, of course, these huge sums ranging well above three trillion U.S. dollars from the oil and gas industry, out of which one trillion has been completely stolen that never were brought back to Nigeria.

“The Niger Delta people have not gotten any reasonable share out of it. So, if you go to the Niger Delta, what you see is squalor. What has been happening to them as a people is spilling over to other parts of the country.

“For instance, carbon dioxide, yes, it may be more, the pollutants, the BTECs, and hydrocarbons, maybe more in Barantoro in the Equatorial Mine, in my kingdom. But when you have a flare like the type I have close to my palace, which is about 60 meters up there, it has a capacity of polluting far beyond the state,” he said.

Dakolo stressed that once evil is allowed to fester, it snowballs and gets out to reach everyone, adding that for every Nigerian that has kept quiet on this Niger Delta issue, that has fed fat on it, that has pretended not to know about the Niger Delta issue, about oil and gas, is an accomplice in a way.

Earlier in his welcome remarks titled: ‘Ending the Sacrifice’ Chief Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), noted that the findings of the report of the Bayelsa State Oil and Environment Commission ominously, highlighted a per capita oil pollution of 1.5 barrels in the state from thousands of oil spills.

Bassey said that the report called concerted international action to generate and invest at least US $12 billion over 12 years to repair, remediate and restore the environmental and public health damage caused by oil and gas and to lay the foundations for Bayelsa’s just transition towards renewable energy and opportunities for alternative livelihoods.

According to him; “Generally, environmental issues, and socio-ecological issues are always placed on the back banners. Governments don’t pay much attention to it. Sometimes just when there’s a World Environment Day, they make some statements”.

Bassey noted that at the very first meeting in 2022, the NDAC had issued the Niger Delta Alternatives Manifesto, which they actually believed that policymakers would take up and look at the top, the major demands in that manifesto, which includes some of the things that everybody’s talking about today with regards to divestment issues, which should have a very clear policy.

Bassey said that the NDAC manifesto specifically called for the remediation and restoration of all impacted territories and for payment of reparations for the damage suffered, saying; “Even the first oil wells drilled, exploited from the 1950s and abandoned in the 1970s, are still polluting the environment because there has not been a proper abandonment and decommissioning process.

In his words; “The Niger Delta is indeed a short-fused time bomb. The oil well fires at Ororo-1 that have raged for over 4 years and the one at Alakiri-9 which has been on for 5 months, epitomize the fact that the time bombs are already exploding.

“NDAC does not only highlight the huge socioecological challenges of the region but also proposes very clear pathways out of the quagmire. The Convergence notes the extreme negative impacts of oil and gas exploitation in the region as well as the massive deforestation and diverse erosion of both the land and the coastlines.

“We note that while the region is made up of a complex ecosystem of streams, rivers, creeks and the sea, potable water is a rarity due to incessant oil spills and the dumping of hazardous industrial wastes into both surface and groundwater.

“Other core demands of the NDAC, he said include a call for immediate comprehensive environmental and health audits of the entire region Niger Delta with particular alignment to livelihoods, social and economic impacts of crude oil and gas extraction,” he stressed.

While presenting the resolutions and highlights of the Niger Delta Alternative Manifesto, Ken Henshaw, Executive Director of ‘We The People’ said that while oil has been extracted from the Niger Delta lands and rivers for the last 64 years, the people have become significantly poorer, less developed and more insecure during the same period.

Henshaw asserted that the communities that have borne the brunt of oil extraction and Nigeria’s oil economy for over six decades deserve urgent and immediate attention, stressing that without doubt, the oil producing communities require urgent attention to address the massive challenges they are confronted with.

Henshaw later presented the 8 points demands of the NDAC which included; “Following scientific examinations of the soil and water in parts of Ogoni land, which revealed widespread contamination and destruction of the devastation caused by extraction, the NDAC is demanding an immediate and comprehensive audit of the entire Niger Delta region.

He said the audit should be immediately followed by a remediation of impacted places, restoration of the human and ecological damages caused by extraction activities and reparations got the irreversible damages our people have had to endure for the last 64 years.

Henshaw particularly called on the federal government to immediately produce a framework and guide for how oil companies disengage from areas where they have operated, which must contain a post-hydrocarbon impact assessment report that examines the ecological and livelihoods impacts of oil extraction, a health audit of people located in close proximity to extraction as well as a detailed plan costing for remediating the ecological livelihood and health impacts of extraction