….Arch Bishop of York, Ex-Ghana President, John Kufou, Eight others as members
The Bayelsa State Governor, Hon.Seriake Dickson has set up the State Environmental Degradation Commission of Inquiry to investigate the years of negative impact of oil exploration of the waterways and lands of the State by Oil multinationals.
The newly inaugurated Commission of Inquiry is made up of foreign experts, diplomats and forensic experts including the Arch Bishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu as Chairman, the Former President of Ghana, John Kufou, a former in the British Cabinet and House of Lords, Baroness Valerie Amos Brondesbury and a Principal at the Fydow Forensics, Daniel Onifade.
Also on the Commission are the Former Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice, Barr. Wodu Kemesuode, who is to serve as legal Counsel to the Commission, Head of the School of Law, University of Bradford, Prof. Engine Emeseh, Prof. Of Public Economics, University of St. Gallen, Prof. Roland Hodler and Dr. Kathryn Nwajiaku-Dohou among others.
The Bayelsa State Governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson, who inaugurated the Commission yesterday at the State Executive Chamber of the Government House, said the Commission has a life span of Nine months to submit it’s report and such duration can be extended on request of the Commission.
Dickson also said the Commission has the powers to conduct private hearings, both within and outside the country, “the term of reference of the commission include the conduct of investigation the facts and current circumstances surrounding oil spills and their environmental and human impact. “To that end, the Commission shall (a) establish the facts; (b) quantify the impact of oil spills; (c) determine responsibilities and, where possible, identify those responsible; and (d) make recommendations, including, in particular, on a suitable accountability framework.”
“As Governor of the oldest and largest on-shore 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.”
“Oil and gas exploration and extraction has had an incalculable impact on the people and environment of Bayelsa State. It has threatened local 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.”
“The work of the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission, I hope, will transform the lives of the people of Bayelsa and the environments in which our citizens live. These are our lives. This is our future. We will work together to restore all of Bayelsa, for ourselves and for the next generations. Thank you for being part of that mission.”
“Once again, I would like to thank everyone here today, for the work undertaken thus far and for the work yet to be done. Your input and contribution to the Commission are invaluable.
I hope the next few days are beneficial and by meeting the people of Bayelsa and hearing their stories you are able to fully understand the impact of oil company on our communities and help us to make a difference to the lives of the people of Bayelsa.”
In his acceptance speech, the Chairman of the newly inaugurated Commission,the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, commended Governor Seriake Dickson for setting up the Commission, insisting that the Commission will investigate the human and environmental impact of multinational oil company activity and is crucial to the prosperous future of the people of Bayelsa and their environment, Nigeria and hopefully to other oil-producing nations”.
Earlier, the State Commissioner for Environment, noted that a team of forensic expert commissioned in 2012 to study the impact of oil pollution on bayelsa environment has confirmed that the environment has been destroyed by the activities of multinational oil and Gas with over 13million barrels of crude oil spilled since the 1950s.
According to him, “it will interest you to know that no adequate compensation has been paid to any community, neither in form of carcinogenic hydrocarbons. They no longer fish as streams and rivers are polluted with oil spills. Our common wealth as farmers and Fisher men has been destroyed.”
“Oil and gas exploration have had a vast impact on the Niger Delta’s land, water systems and biodiversity.Hearing the impact of the environmental degradation on the people of the Niger Delta has been shocking. I always say that you can judge how healthy a society is by how it treats the most vulnerable members.”
“I believe that it is essential that light is shed on the impact that oil spills have had on the land and people of Bayelsa State, that multinational oil companies are held to account, and new solutions identified to address this environmental and human crisis.. This is why I have accepted the position of Chair.”
“Regarding the oil industry and its impact, we are all fellow citizens of God’s earth with a responsibility for one another, as the environment knows no national boundaries. In 2015 I visited Samoa, Tonga and Fiji to deliver a series of lectures on climate change and witnessed the terrible impact of climate change upon the islanders. The crisis there is not simply a matter for the countries in the South Pacific – it is a matter for us all.”
“Over the course of the week, the Commission will set out to investigate and gather testimony of the environmental and human impact of the activities of multinational oil companies in Bayelsa State. (state the Terms of Reference)”
On the issue of the term of Reference for the Commission of Inquiry, the Archbishop of York said “The aim of the commission is to develop a set of informed recommendations that lead to the development of a new legal framework that ensures accountability and an action plan for implementation to ensure a healthy environment by ensuring appropriate clean-up and remediation of impacted sites, and that host communities receive sufficient compensation for the impacts of environmental pollution and degradation, and reap the benefits from the production of oil within their communities.”
“The Commission will achieve this by Investigating the environmental and human damage caused by the operations of the multinational oil companies, specifically as a result of oil spills, in Bayelsa State.Analysing the existing legislation governing the operations of the multinational oil companies, undertake comparative analysis with legislation governing the operations of multinational oil companies in other territories, and assess the suitability of the existing Nigerian legislation for holding multinational oil companies to account for their activities”
“Inviting evidence from the international community through evidence sessions in different locations. Inviting evidence from the international community through hosting online evidence sessions where participants are able to submit oral evidence via video link or written evidence via writing to the Commission email account.”