Reps worry over environmental degradation of oil companies host communities

Reps

The Joint Committees on Environment, Petroleum Resources (Upstream), Petroleum Resources (Downstream), and Climate Change on Wednesday expressed deep concern over the environmental degradation and socio-economic marginalisation of the oil-producing communities in Nigeria

The committees lamented that the abundant natural resources in the region should have been a source of prosperity and development; rather, the host communities have suffered from pollution, land degradation, loss of biodiversity, and deterioration of traditional livelihoods that are inestimable and irreparable.

The Chairman of the Joint Committee on Environment, Rep. Pondi Gbabojor, spoke at the public hearing on the need to investigate the service and unprecedented environmental damage within oil-producing communities in Abuja on Wednesday.

He pointed out that it was because of the expectations of these shortcomings that it was enshrined in the law and statutes of maintaining basic principles of environmental protection, social equity, and corporate accountability, which any company seeking to explore natural resources must adhere to and uphold.

However, he lamented that despite the laws and regulations enacted to safeguard the Nigerian environment and the established regulatory agencies of the government that are mandated to address these concerns, the environmental damages in oil-producing communities still persist unabated.

He said it was incumbent on them, as representatives of the people, to identify the erring organisations, hold those responsible accountable, and take decisive action to mitigate the living conditions of the constituents.

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The committee chairman noted that the hearing is not intended to witch-hunt any company but to provide clarity on the matter that has been brought to the attention of the committees and the House of Representatives.

He stressed the need to approach the inquiry with empathy and humility, making it possible for all to have reconciliation at the forefront.

He urged all stakeholders present to approach this hearing with an open mind, a spirit of cooperation, and a commitment to the search for the truth.

According to him, “You may recall that the committee was constrained to adjourn a sitting at the hearing of April 24, 2024, to today due to the absence of a significant number of the invited stakeholders.

“Prior to today’s hearing, the committees, in continuation of the investigation, held a session with the oil-producing communities on Tuesday, May 7, 2024.

“The significance of the session was to listen to the concerns of those who have suffered environmental damages occasioned by non-compliance with existing laws by oil-producing companies and ensure that they are heard and respected.

“This hearing presents us with another opportunity in our nation’s quest for environmental justice and sustainable development as we convene here to address the pressing issue of environmental damages within oil-producing communities.

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“In the debate leading to the above resolution, the House took into cognizance that the revenue generated from oil and gas exports forms a substantial portion of the government’s income and is utilised in the funding of critical sectors of our economic development.

“Nonetheless, there is a need to strike a balance between our economic prosperity and maintaining an ecosystem and the natural habitat that has served as home to all for millions of years.

“Our environment is not just the backdrop of human action but the very essence of life and our sustenance.

The oil-producing communities in our nation have experienced environmental degradation and socio-economic marginalisation as a result of decades of oil exploration and exploitation.

The bountiful natural resources should have been a source of prosperity and development, but instead of prosperity, these communities have suffered from pollution, land degradation, loss of biodiversity, and deterioration of traditional livelihoods.

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