By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
Senate has indicted a multinational oil firm, Chevron Nigeria Limited, over the current ocean surge along the coastal areas of Delta and Bayelsa states, which has killed many Nigerians residing along the coastal line.
In this regards, the Senate after its plenary yesterday, mandated federal government to mobilise compensation from Chevron for the communities affected by the ocean surge.
Senate further called on the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to send relief materials to persons displaced by the ocean surge, even as it called on the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Ecological Fund Office to clear the creeks to
allow the waters return to the ocean. While lamenting that ecological funds had been misappropriated in the past for purchase of houses, sponsoring of political campaigns, the Senate directed that both the State and federal government should strictly deploy ecological funds to solving ecological challenges. These resolutions were sequel to a motion titled “Ocean surge in coastal areas and consequences for coastal dwellers”, which was sponsored by Emmanuel Paulker and twenty eight other senators. Debating the motion, the senators argued that lack of environmental impact assessment by the oil company was responsible for the ocean surge which submerged some coastal communities in Bayelsa and Delta States.
This was due to the fact that the surge was attributed to the unmitigated explosive activities of Chevron oil company in the oil producing communities in the coastal states of the Niger Delta region.
The Upper Chamber further called on the Federal Government to put measures in place to bring lasting solution to the problem, including comprehensive environmental impact assessment to determine the effect of past earth tremors on the nation’s earth crust, and aggressive
shoreline protection of coastal areas in the country. Leading debate on the motion, Senator Paulker drew the attention of the Senate to the devastating experience of residents of some coastal communities in Bayelsa and Delta, who were recently displaced by ocean waves, which he said submerged their communities and destroyed their livelihood.
He told the Senate that the ocean surge had killed people, wiped out communities and destroyed markets and property worth billions of naira and permanently altered their lifestyles in Koluama 1, Koluama 11, Foropa and many other communities in Southern Ijaw Local Government
Areas of Bayelsa State. According to him, the affected communities traced the origin of their trouble to the unmitigated impact of the Chevron oil rig explosion and fire which occurred in Koluama in January 2012, which they claimed was not properly tackled.
He noted that it was such under water explosions and vibrations that triggered the 2004 Indian Ocean sunami that claimed about 290,000 lives and affected about 14 countries along the ocean coast.
Similarly, Paulker pointed out that similar vibrations were responsible for the catastrophic tidal waves that hit Japan in 2011, killing tens of thousands of people, destroying homes, property and damaging Japan’s nuclear and industrial capabilities. He raised the alarm that the Chevron’s explosion could result in similar calamity if nothing was done to mitigate the impact and other concomitant seismic implications. Calling for caution and government’s urgent intervention, the lawmaker reminded the Red Chamber that similar unchecked ocean wave rose 15 years ago and submerged Victoria Island and Ikoyi in Lagos for many months, destroying valuables and lives.
Contributing, Senator Ayogu Eze, (Enugu-PDP) implored the government to intervene promptly and properly to help the victims of the surge and also embark on preventive measures to forestall future reoccurrence. In his contribution to the motion too, Senator James Manager, representing Delta South advised that once the motion was passed, the appropriate government agencies should rise up to the occasion, stressing that if such was not nipped in the bud, it would create disastrous consequences for humanity. Furthermore, Senator Helen Esuene, Akwa Ibom South stated that the motion was timely and appropriate, saying that what was being witnessed was signs of climate change as a result of global warming which she said would not abate.
Senator Esuene said that there should be determined efforts to mitigate its effect before it deteriorated beyond the capacity of government to handle, noting that her bill on regulating activities in the mangrove forest was imperative and canvassed for its passage from her colleagues.
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary, pointed out that the major issue was that the government set up ecological fund to take care of such natural disasters but it appeared that the government was not applying the fund judiciously.
Senator Ekweremdu stated that with the motion, the relevant agencies involved would wake-up to their statutory responsibilities, expressing optimism that the agencies would come to the rescue of the victims immediately.