No fewer than 6.5million people involved in fishing-related activities in the Niger Delta have been threatened by the oil exploration.
Renowned environmentalist, Nnimmo Bassey, disclosed this in a paper delivered at a summit in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
The summit themed: “”Key Indices for Visionary Leadership, Good Governance and Sustainable Development in Bayelsa State”, was organised by the G24 Embasara Foundation, an Ijaw group committed to new leadership and governance initiative in Bayelsa and Ijaw land.
He highlighted that the debilitating impact of oil and gas exploration and production had distorted the bio-diversity of the region.
According to him, the region had suffered adverse degradation resulting in “ecocide” due to lack of leadership as well as weak regulatory environmental institutions.
Bassey stressed the need for re-ordering of priorities and adoption of new approaches to environmental sustainability by political leaderships.
He said, “Oil production depletes environmental resources; for every barrel of oil, there is over 13 barrels of toxic effluents that come from the oil wells and nobody gives account of these wastes, which the oil firms discharge into the environment.
“We have about 6.5 million people involved in fishing-related activities threatened by the oil industry, which employs some 5,000 people. Our leaders should think of the jobs of the majority and channel resources to developing renewable energy”, he added.
He rationalised that there is no future for fossil fuels which would be depleted in a few decades since the world had advanced with cars that run without oil.
Bassey called on the Niger Delta people to change their attitude and refrain from pipeline vandalism, oil theft and illegal oil refining which further pollute and degrade their environment.
Some stakeholders at the summit including the Convener and former Commissioner for Environment in Bayelsa, Mr. Iniruo Wills, expressed concerns over issues of poor leadership and bad governance by public office holders in the state over the years.
They called for a review of recruitment process for political leadership in order to make public office holders answerable and accountable to the people.
Specifically, Wills said the group was developing Ijaw nation code of ethics, which prospective political office-holders must subscribed to.
The chairman of the occasion, Amba Ambaiowei, said the group is worried about the under-development in Ijaw land resulting to lack of access to basic social amenities.
Ambaiowei, a former Commissioner for Education and Labour in the old Rivers State, said the group would scrutinise the competences of Ijaw people seeking public offices.