The oil-bearing communities in the Nembe Council Area of Bayelsa have described as fraudulent the Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) drawn by the International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in their areas.
The communities said this at a stakeholders’ forum organised by the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission (BSOEC), in Yenagoa.
The commission is holding a week-long interactive engagement with stakeholders in the eight local government areas of the state.
The engagement is aimed at ascertaining the impact of oil spills on the environment, local communities, livelihoods and the health of the people.
King Loveday Emina, the Amayanabo of Dorguama, said the GMoUs were deceitful, adding that most of the multinational oil companies were not ready to abide by the letters of the agreement.
He said: “The GMoUs are mere fallacies. The oil companies are only deceiving the communities with the documents and will not be ready to clean up the environment when there is a spill or even provide necessary amenities for the people.
“The GMoU has never worked in any community in Bayelsa state. When I was nominated by my community as one of the negotiators of the GMoU, I thought we would sit down and discuss.
“Unfortunately, the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) had already prepared a document for us to read and sign. They said we should not ask for anything other than what was in the document.
“We were not allowed to state our problems because they claim to know them more than us. Nothing has since been done by SPDC and our people are suffering.
“Our youths are jobless and are now resorting to militancy and other vices that are inimical to the society. Poverty is really biting us.
“The night life that we used to enjoy through gathering together for folktales has gone because of the fear of attack by our own people.”
A Community Leader from the Okoroma Clan, Mr Derry Patrick, accused the oil companies of using the revenue being derived from the oil exploration in their area to develop other areas, while the community where oil was first drilled in Nigeria was totally neglected.
“Our children are dying from pollution and suffering different kinds of ailments. Our rivers are polluted.
“Our fishermen will go out for fishing at night and come back the following morning with nothing because the fishes are all dead,” he said.
Another Community Leader from Fantou community, Chief Michael Olali, said Federal Government’s presence was not felt in spite of the abundance of oil in the area.
He said that the people of Nembe Creeks would soon stage a protest against the government and all the oil companies operating in the area.
“We live under roofs that leak and in mud houses. We even bathe in polluted rivers because we lack basic amenities. Our land is no more useful for farming because of oil exploration and spills.
“Our due should be given to us. Our people are not employed in the companies, even as cleaners and drivers. There are also no opportunities for scholarship from the companies,” he said.
Responding, the Chairman of the commission, Dr John Sentamu, expressed his commission’s commitment to finding out solutions to the myriad of challenges.
Sentamu, who is also the Archbishop of York, noted that most of the complaints were not new but regretted that they had yet to be properly addressed.
The chairman, who was represented by a commissioner, Dr Kathryn Nwajiaku-Dahou, promised that all the grievances expressed by the communities would be reflected in the commission’s report and followed up with serious advocacy. (NAN).