The Archbishop of York, Most Reverend John Sentamu, at the weekend said Bayelsa State was suffering slow environmental genocide following careless oil exploration and exploitation by multinational companies.
Sentamu, who is also a member of the British Parliament, lampooned the international oil companies operating in the state for failing to uphold global best standards.
A statement by the Press Secretary to the Bayelsa State Governor, Mr. Fidelis Soriwei, said the cleric made the remarks while presenting an Interim Report on their findings, as the Chairman of the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission in Yenagoa.
Sentamu noted that the Commission spent the past seven months conducting researches in all the eight local government areas of the state, describing the level of degradation as serious and lamentable.
He said apart from losing lives and its ecosystem, communities in the state were deprived economically and lacked access to justice.
While assuring the state government of his commitment to tell the Bayelsa story, Sentamu stressed the need for collective action against the excesses of oil companies in the area.
He said: “Environment knows no national boundaries. We all have responsibility to care for the environment and it’s for this reason I accepted to chair this Commission.
“Oil and gas exploration has had adverse impact on Bayelsa’s lives, water systems, biodiversity and its people. Over the past seven months, the Commission has been investigating and gathering evidences about the activities of oil companies.
“The Commission has spoken to hundreds of people across the eight local government areas of the state on the impact of environmental degradation and its wide ranging effect on the people. I believe that what we have seen amounts to a slow environmental genocide taking place here in Bayelsa and this has been allowed to go on for over fifty years,” he said.
In their separate remarks, the Secretary of the commission, Dr. Kathryn Nwajiaku, and another member, Prof Engobo Emeseh, expressed shock at the findings of the Commission in all the communities the expert team visited.
In his response, Dickson expressed gratitude to the Chairman and members of the Commission for doing a thorough job, which he noted would help in telling the often neglected Bayelsa story.