The payment of $12 billion to Bayelsa State for the restoration and clean up of decade-long oil pollution may not be an end to the degradation of the state and other ravaged Niger Delta regions of Nigeria. Recently, the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission hinted that of $12 billion would be required for the clean up. Though there should be financial in- jection by the indicted international oil companies (IOCs) and other culprits to the polluted areas for compensation and restoration, strategies must be activated to permanently stop oil pollution, the attendant environmental degradation, poverty and misery in the oil-rich but environmentally deprived regions.
Observers believe that addressing the challenges of the Niger Delta region will improve the security of oil personnel and infrastructure as well as increase Nigeria’s oil production, attract more foreign direct investments and boost the profit of the IOCs. It will also energise economic devel- opment, employment creation, business growth and the overall welfare and well- being of Nigerians, especially the Niger Deltans.
These views were confirmed by a retired Director of the defunct Department of Petroleum Resources, (DPR), Engineer Sunday Adebayo Babalola. He also urged the IOC’s and the government to address the pollution and environmental degradation in the areas. He harped on the importance of improved security in the region. Babalola said: “Cleaning of the Bayelsa State and other oil-producing states will engender economic development, and more oil production. If the place is cleaned up and there is no restiveness again and people are gainfully employed instead of looking for where to vandalise pipelines to siphon crude oil, then the producers will spend more money to produce because if you are going to spend money to produce and you are not sure that the output will get to its destination, you will be wary of spending money.
“It is a plethora of issues surround- ing it. Cleaning it up is not enough. You have to make sure that whatever created the pollution will not happen again. That goes with insecurity and all other things that come with it. “If they are cleaned up, it will engen- der more economic activities in terms of agriculture. It will also improve oil production to the intent that insecurity is removed. If you clean it up and there is this level of unemployment, people vandalising pipelines to siphon crude, you will be back to square zero and people who want to produce will not produce. They will not want to invest their money and they will not get a return on their investments.”
He added: “I do not know what facts they have, what data they have and how they arrived at $12 billion. Therefore, I can not comment on whether the amount is too big or too small. You need to see the database that they are using and the body of facts they have before commenting on the amount. “However, when you get to the Niger Delta, when you are breathing in some places, and you put your hands in your nose, what will come out is the soot of the gas flare. And you also look at the body of water, the killings of the ecosystem, the fish and other aquatic life, all affected by pollution. Restoring that is going to take a lot. How much it is going to be, I do not know.