Reps To Probe JTF Over Niger Delta Degradation | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Reps To Probe JTF Over Niger Delta Degradation

Posted: Aug 7, 2015 at 2:28 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

• Blames Agip For Death Of 14 In Bayelsa

By Rotimi Akinwumi – Abuja


The House of Representatives on Thursday resolved to set up an ad hoc committee to investigate the activities of the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta in relation to the alleged burning and destruction of equipment seized from illegal refineries without proper recourse to environmental laws.

The House also mandated the committee, when constituted, to investigate the activities of Nigerian Agip Oil Company, to ensure that it improves on its facilities to avoid further destruction of lives.

The House particularly noted the recent death of 14 people in Azuzuama community in the region, mandating the committee to probe and determine the circumstance that led to their death.

The decision of the parliament followed the adoption of a motion entitled: “Urgent need to bring an end to the despoliation of the Niger Delta environment through the burning of equipment confiscated from illegal operators of refineries,” raised by Douye Diri, Leo Ogor and 12 others.

Diri, who spoke on behalf of the others, drew the attention of the House to the fact that the JTF was set up in 2004 to protect pipelines, prevent the operation of illegal refineries and generally maintain peace, law and order in the Niger Delta.

The outfit, he however noted, seem to be derailing from its assignment, judging by its actions that now constitute health hazards to the people of the region.

According to him, the communities in the area suffer from effects of burning and destruction of oil tools and equipment seized from operators of illegal oil refineries, which is not done according to internationally accepted best practises adding that it has greatly polluted the environment.

“The JTF as part of their mandate to arrest illegal oil vessels used by oil bunkers to steal crude and also prevent the destruction of the facilities of the oil installation has gone further in the destruction of seized illegal barges and vessels used by vandals in their operation, the JTF in their zeal to show that they are working, without recourse to international best practice set this barges on fire and the illegal refineries which often times are situated within the communities that has been exposed to environmental pollution from the very time oil was discovered.

“Looking at a study carried out by environmental experts from international organizations and some Nigerian scholars in 2006, clearly shows that the Niger Delta is “one of the world’s most severely petroleum impacted ecosystems” in their various reports they stated that the damage from oil operations is chronic and cumulative, and has acted synergistically impaired coastal ecosystem and compromised the livelihood and health of the regions impoverished residents.

“Gas flaring, oil spills and waste dumping are endemic in the Niger Delta, this level of pollution which has affected the areas have damaged the soil, water and air quality, and to those who rely solely on the traditional livelihood such as fishing and agriculture, they are now exposed to hunger.

“The human rights implications are serious, under reported and have received little attention from the Government of Nigeria or the oil companies.

“The actions of the JTF in the Niger Delta with regard to the treatment of seized oil tools and accessories used by the oil bunkers have given rise to this motion.

“The effect of exploration has already had negative effect on the inhabitants and environment of the Niger Delta, and now the activities of the JTF are now adding to what the people are facing in their mode of operation.

“On land were the JTF arrest this illegal oil bunkers and the items they use in their illegal acts, they destroy those items, and they fail to consider the aftermath effect of their action on the host communities, often times most of those communities are already suffering from environmental pollution, e.g. lands for agriculture and portable drinking water comes to the mind because the soil is polluted by oil exploration and destroy of the environment by constant and willful act of burning.

“Oil pollution in water damages aquatic life and contaminates the water which is mostly the only source of water the people use both for drinking and other domestic purposes since our communities solely depend on the rivers for water which clearly showed how most of the oil companies in the Niger Delta has failed to provide social amenities as part of their social corporate governance in assisting the Government at all levels.

“In Delta State the JTF announced on the 18th June, 2015 that 32 illegal refineries were destroyed in the following communities Odimodi, Yokri, Forcados, Oteghele, Opumani and Beneath island communities in Burutu and Warri South-West Local Government areas, in all this destruction the JTF has failed to observe international best practice and standards in the destruction to save the ecosystem of the Niger Delta.”

On the fire incident that took lives in Azuzuama community in Bayelsa State, he said the issue should be laid firmly at the feet of the oil company that refused to repair their pipelines as and when due.

The House, presided over by the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, unanimously agreed upon the motion.