Azuzuama Fatal Oil Pipeline Fire Disaster: What is the Value of Human Life in Bayelsa State and the Niger Delta of Nigeria?
It is time to declare a State of Emergency on the Environment in Bayelsa State in particular and the Niger Delta in general, in order to save the lives of our people and the future of our communities. For the people of Bayelsa State and especially families of the victims and Staff of the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment, July 2015 will go down as the July of Death, on account of the needless deaths inflicted upon our beloved ones and colleagues by Nigeria’s environmentally irresponsible oil and gas industry.
In the course of a joint investigation/instant repairs visit to an oil spill site in the Azuzuama community area in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, a fire disaster occurred that claimed all of fourteen (14) lives, including an officer each from the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment.
We are grieving, but we must now also insist yet again that it is time to take decisive action to stop this perilous hazard that has become a routine threat to life and ecology in Bayelsa State and the Niger Delta. It is time for ALL that are truly concerned to move from lip service to real action NOW!
All options must be put on the table for consideration and action, including a moratorium on oil production and the revocation or suspension of oil mining leases and pipeline licences until adequate practical arrangements, visible for all to see, are made by the oil industry and relevant tiers of Government for the protection of the environment and impacted communities.
Also in need of urgent protection are the state and federal regulatory officers who despite EXTREME INSTITUTIONAL AND FUNDING CONSTRAINTS still feel compelled to go out to oil spill sites and put their lives at risk every day just to help minimize the continuous destruction of the environment. To these unsung heroes, the under-equipped and unappreciated regulators and monitors at federal and state levels, we say thank you for your thankless daily sacrifices in attempting to protect the environment and making it possible for oil production to go on and generate the billions of dollars in public revenues that fund our governments, public infrastructure and social services.
This is the context in which one of our excellent officers, Engr Duabo Theophilus, went out to do his selfless duty on that fateful 9th of July and only returned in a body bag. We all owe you, ourselves and posterity a duty to not allow things to continue the way they are, no matter the cost.
This is a clarion call to action, a moral challenge and an SOS message to the Federal Government, authorities at all levels of Government, the international community (including the United Nations), and the national and global environmental rights movement/NGOs to finally move beyond rhetoric and take a definitive stand against the environmental crime against humanity that everybody knows is taking place in the Niger Delta. It is also an appeal to the conscience of the multinational oil corporations in Nigeria that continue to destroy our environment and our people’s lives through their reckless operations and their scandalous environmental and safety standards.
In the meantime, the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment will continue to engage with all concerned parties, including investigatory authorities, the industry operators involved (Nigerian Agip Oil Company Ltd and its contractor, Vowgas Limited) and the affected families to ensure that there is comprehensive and speedy investigation, full accountability by all those responsible for this disaster, adequate compensations, and a radical change in environmental standards comparable to international oilfield best practice.
Our thoughts remain with the families of all the fourteen souls lost in the Azuzuama oil pipeline fire disaster of 9th July, 2015.
Bayelsa State Commissioner for Environment
21 July, 2015