Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) has urged governments at all levels to stop prioritising revenue and royalty from oil and gas operations over the lives and environment of the Niger Delta people.
The group also tasked the incoming Federal Government to, as a matter of priority, respond to the needs of the people of the Niger Delta by protecting the environment, since the people depend on the environment for a living.
Executive Director of the HOMEF, Dr Nnimmo Bassey, said it was unacceptable that local communities in the Niger Delta drink water from polluted streams and rivers and also breathe polluted air.
He made the call during a one-day capacity building in Amonogo Biri, Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State, organised for communities on how to combat and provide solutions to the persistent environmental pollution caused by refining, oil and petrochemical companies operating in the area.
He described government as the major culprit when it comes to the degradation of the environment as they were only after the exploration of natural resources at the expense of the poor masses whose livelihood are being destroyed totally.
Bassey added that the workshop was imperative to build the capacity of community people to confront their government and oil operators over the pollution in the area and to enhance the ability of the people to speak up against environmental degradation.
“I think it is big embarrassment that we have government at all levels in those areas and we don’t see any concern for the environment.
“This is one thing that is wrong in this country. Government tends to see natural resources as things to be exploited at any cost. The environment is destroyed, the resources are taken and foreign exchange are made.
“When the environment is destroyed, the live of the people are also destroyed and if people are not able to thrive in their community, then whatsoever financial gains the government makes is equal to blood money.
“The incoming government must respond to the needs of the people, protecting the environment should be the number one responsibility of government because people depend on the environment for a living.
“People drink water from polluted streams and rivers, people are farming in a polluted land and they are breathing polluted air. This is unacceptable,” he said.
Earlier, some members of the community narrated their experiences, complaining that the presence of the oil companies around them has brought nothing but pains and sorrow, following the negative impact the industries has had on their aquatic life.
A fisherman, Fyneface Daka, said that the fishes caught from the river are polluted, since the water itself was polluted from chemical and toxic wastes discharged by Port Harcourt refinery and Indorama petrochemicals.
Highpoint of the workshop was the inauguration of FishNet Alliance in Okrika, for the promotion of sustainable fishing in line with ecosystem limits and environmental advocacy.
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