Chairman, Senate Committee on Ecology and Climate Change, Senator Seriake Dickson, PDP, Bayelsa West has raised the alarm that many residents of the oil-rich state and the Niger Delta region are suffering from heavy metal poisoning, just as he urged state Governors to adopt urgent measures to curtail the dangerous trend.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja when the Global Initiative for Climate and Environmental Sustainance (GICES) conferred on him, an excellence in environmental leadership award 2023, the former Governor of Bayelsa State who blamed the development on the activities of the various multinational oil companies in the region, explained that the Committee he constituted as governor, then took samples of blood of residents of the oil producing areas as it was disturbing that at the end of the laboratory tests, the results showed that there were heavy metal poisoning in their bodies.
The award was presented by Comrade Celestine Okwudili who represented Mrs Ene Obi of Action Aid at the event.
The Coalition said that the award was conferred on the Senator for his contributions and stewardship in sustaining a healthy environment while serving as Governor of Bayelsa State between 2012 and 2020.
According to Okwudilli, the Senator during his tenure as governor, empaneled an International Commission on Oil Spills to assess environmental damages, determine responsibility, and develop a new legal framework for accountability and compensation in the area, adding that the indelible efforts made by the Senator included the constitution of an international commission on the environment chaired by Bishop, Lord Sentamu.
The report of the Commission was presented to the House of Lords after a thorough and painstaking analysis last month and was received by Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State.
The Coalition also cited Senator Dickson’s bold and proactive decision to employ 250 graduates who were trained and posted to the Ministry of Environment as forest protection officers to stem the unlawful felling of trees leading to massive deforestation in Bayelsa, states in the Niger Delta and in most states in Nigeria.
Dickson said, “We are gathered here to remind ourselves of our collective duty and responsibility to work for a safer a more friendlier environment. The formal launch of the commission’ s report was presented in the House of Lords.
“As Governor I got tired of the environmental degradation that I was seeing in Bayelsa on daily basis, reports, I have seen first hand of the effect on the communities, on the.livelihood of the people and indeed on the lives of the people. An international Commission of Enquiry made up of Political leaders and then also experts, scientists of no mean repute drawn from around the world. I used my powers under the Commission of enquiry of the laws of Bayelsa State to empanel then and to commission them and to do an indebt, thorough and comprehensive investigation and report. They went to communities, took samples from spilling sites, took samples, even blood samples from people in Bayelsa. You will be shocked at the findings.
“The amount of heavy metals that the people in Bayelsa and the Niger Delta oil bearing communities are carrying. You will be shocked the heavy metals in their systems, from the air that is polluted to the water that is polluted that they drink, from the fish that is contaminated that they consumed and so on over the years. Scientific report, I wanted a scientific base, when we say it is pollution and the activities are destroying the environment, our way of life and infant detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the people, we wanted to establish a scientific base and that was what we provided.
“I want to thank members of my team, first class, Commissioners, Professors from around the world and the Lord St a member of the House of Lords, a privy Counsellor who left his work there in the church of England as number 2, next only to the archbishop of Canterbury
“They did all of that for years and presented this report. I know that government continued from where I stopped but today I want to remind Nigerians about this report. Try to get a copy of this report. Everything about the scientific details and the effect of pollution over the decades in Bayelsa and across the Nigeh Delta.
“it will also serve as a lesson for those States that are jubilation that they are oil producing States. We welcome them to the fold, let them come and see what we have been seeing for the past site to seventy years and feel what we feel but in all this is a call to further action.
Tha you for seeing that as something worthy of commendation.”
Dickson who drew the attention of the multinational oil firms to the development but that rather than doing something about it, they started fighting him, lamented that the situation was still reoccurring even as he urged the attention of his successor to the unfortunate situation and asked him to take action.
The Senator said, “The oil companies were not cooperating with me then. They were even fighting me but I did not mind them because I knew I was fighting a just course.”
Dickson who explained how he recruited 250 graduates to protect the environment, especially the forest resources, called on the Federal Government to pay attention to the reckless deforestation taking place across the country.
Earlier, the representative of the group Comrade Celestine Okwudili said, “His Excellency Senator Henry Seriake Dickson believes that the Environment is the collective heritage.
“So as governor to the good people of Bayelsa state, in his multi-pronged approach towards protecting and preserving the Bayelsa environment, his excellency employed over 200 forest protection officers, that were recruited into the ministry of environment.
“The aim is to monitor deforestation and stop the reckless fallen of trees in the state.
“His excellency further took his mission and vision to a higher level, towards tackling the issues of environmental terrorism and degradation caused by oil companies in the Niger Delta region.
“These team of world leaders brought together by Senator Henry Seriake Dickson includes; The former President of Ghana, Emmanuel Kuffour, the Archbishop of York Dr. John Setanmu, as well as notable academicians to address the harrowing issues of environmental despoliation as well as related challenges in the oil industry.”