Some communities in Bayelsa State have described as fraudulent the Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMOU) with international oil companies (IOCs) operating in their areas.
The oil-bearing communities located in Yenagoa and Ogbia local government areas made the claim during a stakeholders forum organised by the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission (BSOEC) in Yenagoa and Ogbia respectively.
The commission is holding a week-long interactive engagement with stakeholders in the eight local government areas of the state in order to ascertain the impact of oil spills on the environment, local communities, livelihoods and health of the people.
His Royal Majesty, the Ibedaowei of Ekpetiama Kingdom, King Bubaraye Dakolo, in his presentation, said the GMoUs are a fallacy.
His words: “The GMoUs are fallacies. The oil companies deceive the communities with these documents and still will not clean up the environment when there is a spill or even provide social amenities for the people. The GMOU has never worked in any community.”
Describing the experience of his community, another representative said: “When I was nominated by my community as one of the negotiators of the GMoU, I thought we will sit down and discuss. But, unfortunately, the SPDC (Shell Petroleum Development Company) already prepared a document for us to read and sign. They said we should not ask anything other than what was in the document.
“We were not allowed to note our problems because they claim to know it more than us. Since after the discussion, nothing has been done by the SPDC and our people are suffering.
“Our youths are jobless and now resorting to militancy and other vices that are inimical to society. Poverty has really bitten us. The night life we used to enjoy through gathering together for folktales can no longer be done because of the fear of attack by our own people.”
An Oloibiri community leader, High Chief Dennis Ovoh-Adogu, accused the oil companies of using the revenue from the oil in their area to develop Abuja and other places while the community where oil was first drilled in Nigeria was totally neglected.
“Our children are dying from pollution and suffer different kinds of ailments. Our rivers are polluted. The fisherfolks go fishing throughout the night and come back with nothing because the fishes are all dead.”
Adogu said federal government’s presence was not felt despite the abundance of oil in the area, adding that the people of Ogbia will soon stage a protest against the government and all the operating oil companies in the area.
The Otuasega Community Development Committee chairman, Comrade Confidence Moses, equally said the oil companies, particularly SPDC, had caused more harm to them than good, adding that girls engage in prostitution and that the youths in bunkering and militancy due to the poverty in their communities.
“We live under leaking roofs and in mud houses. We even bathe in polluted river because we lack basic amenities. Our land is no more rich for farming because of the exploration and spills.
“Our due privileges should be given to us. Our people are not employed in the companies even as cleaners and drivers. There are also no opportunities for scholarship from the companies.”
The woman leader of Otuabagi community, George Mitema Souye, said there is an ongoing oil spillage in the community.
She claimed women in affected communities suffer miscarriage due to the effect of oil exploration and pollution, adding that young ladies get to menopause early.
Responding, chairman of the commission, who is the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, stated that they were committed to finding out solutions to the challenges.
He noted that most of the complaints were not new but that sadly the old problems have not gone away.
Sentamu, who was represented by a commissioner, Dr. Kathryn Nwajiaku-Dahou, promised that their grievances would be reflected in the commission’s report and followed up with serious advocacy.