It has being revealed that billions of dollars provided by the Federal Government and other development agencies to cushion environmental impacts on the oil producing areas ended up in private pockets.
The Chairman Board of Trustees (BOT) of Oil Mineral Producing Area Landlords Association of Nigeria (OMPALAN), Bishop Udo Azogum made this disclosure recently in Abuja and lamented that oil producing communities have become increasingly impoverished and vulnerable to senseless exploitation and abuse.
According to him , the Niger Delta region made up of the existing 10 oil producing states are the most polluted places on earth. “The United Nation’s Environmental Protection (UNEP) report states that Ogoni land, as in most oil producing areas, has lived with chronic pollution all their lives with benzene level 900 times higher than the recommendations of the world Health Organization, while the region has witnessed massive destruction of vegetables and agricultural land by oil spills,” he said.
While demanding an immediate end to gas flaring in Nigeria, OMAPLAN stated that past administrations were not sincere with oil producing communities because they tacitly ignored persistent calls to enforce subsisting environmental laws and refusing to intervene and stop massive diversion of mitigation programs by the political class.
The association said they desire that government and multi – nationals deliver on their Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS) to impact on most communities and take the issue of flaring of associated gas in Nigeria with seriousness it deserves.
“The toxic cocktail from associated gas flares pose serious health risks to local communities which are located within 30km radius, thereby affecting their livelihood and exposing residents of these communities to a variety of health hazards and an increased risk of premature death,” the association said.
Bishop Azogu explained that various mitigation schemes established by the Federal Government , including the Oil Derivation Fund Commission and Ecological Fund to address negative environmental impacts on local communities have only benefited the tiny but influential political class and the corrupt local elite.
He disclosed that the result were that vulnerable host communities continue to suffer the brunt of mounting environmental degradation and are ravaged perennially by severe health and ecological challenges resulting from prolonged exposure to dangerous emissions and radiations.
“These communities are defenseless before the tiny but influential political
class who remained deaf to sustained and lawful agitations for justice and sometimes resorted to excessive repressive force to whittle down oppositions, “he said.
According to him the associations recognizes the efforts of some compliant state Governors who mobilize fund for development goal in oil producing communities through the states mitigation program.
They frowned that there is conspicuous absence of effective monitoring mechanism in these compliant states to ensure effective service delivery as Politician and the corrupt local elite continue to shortchange target communities.
Azogu said OMPALAN were optimistic that producing state Governors under the present administration would respect the laws establishing the 13 per cent oil derivation fund commission and other mitigation schemes to the letter.