A nongovernmental organization, Stakeholders Alliance for Corporate Accountability (SACA) has asserted that oil spill is responsible for yearly deaths of over 16,000 infants in the oil rich Niger Delta region.
The Executive Director of SACA, Mr. Kingsley Ozegbe, made the assertion during the inauguration of the organization’s Project Management Committee in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital, to safeguard the lives of children in the region.
He said a 2017 research on the effect of oil spill on children mortality which was carried out by Anna Bruedele and Roland Hodler, University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, showed that in 2012 alone, “about 16,000 neonatal babies died in the region within one month of their birth because they were conceived a ten kilometres radius from an oil spill site.”
Ozegbe recounted that the research also showed that the effect of spills also led to pregnancy termination in 13 to 19 women in every 1,000 and impaired weight-for-weight growth of children that survived neonatal death.
Ozegbe went further to drop a shocking hint that 76.24% of the oil spills that occurred in the Niger Delta between January, 2018 and July, 2020 was caused by ‘sabotage’ while about 15% of the spills occurred in Bayelsa state.
He faulted International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in the Niger Delta for not being proactive in the remediation of oil spills, noting that SACA had been working with the ministry of environment,
and putting necessary pressures on environmental health agencies to ensure oil companies do the needful.
He enjoined the newly inaugurated project management committee headed by Dr. Christiana MacDonald to initiate policies and programmes aimed at safeguarding children from the hazardous effects of oil spills.
Speaking after their inauguration, the chairperson of the committee, Dr. MacDonald, who is a private school proprietress, said the mandate of the committee was to
groom the young ones to create awareness on the hazards of oil spill on their lives.
“We will ensure that we set up SACA safeguarding clubs in our schools so that these children can be aware of the efeccts of oil spills on their health, not just their health but their parents’.
“If a father is affected, the effects of the death of a father as a result of the negative health effect of oil spill will hinder the educational advancement of that child.
“So, these children have to be aware, these children have to speak out, these children have to reach out to their fellow children in the rural areas to also create that awareness.
“You know that when children speak out, the mother and the father would want to listen and you know that the targeted persons in government, who are the ones that are supposed to make the policies and also to implement when it comes to the political will to take steps to ensure that these things are curbed, would have no option than to listen,” she added.