AMNESTY ALARMED OVER STUDY LINKING OIL SPILLS AND BABY DEATHS AS HOSCON DEMANDS RELEASE OF N98b GAS FLARE PENALTY

Reacting to a study that found babies in the Niger Delta were twice as likely to die in the first month of life if their mother lived near an oil spill before falling pregnant, Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Director of Global Issues, said:

“This shocking study raises very serious questions about why international oil companies have not done more to monitor the impact of their activities on the health of people living in the Niger Delta.

“Nigeria’s government should establish a system of independent monitoring to alert communities to any health risks posed by the oil industry and hold companies to account for any damage their activities may cause.”

Meanwhile, the Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas (HOSCON) have urged the Federal Government to release the N98bn gas flare penalty money owed the oil producing communities. The National Chairman of the organization, Mr Mike Emuh, told newsmen on Tuesday in Abuja that releasing the money would help to sustain existing peace in the region. “It is an international law that a 3.5 dollar fine should be paid by oil companies for every 1,000 standard cubic feet of gas flared. The law requires the fund to be paid to the host communities for environmental degradation, pollution and plundering of their communities as a result of gas flaring. Instead, the oil companies pay the fine to the Department of Petroleum Resources.

On receipt of the money, the DPR pay the money to the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, who later transfer the money to the Federation Account. This is an aberration.” Emuh said. Emuh also urged the Niger Delta Avengers to suspend its planned hostilities and destruction of oil and gas assets in the region in the interest of peace and development. While urging the group should exercise patience with the current administration and await the outcome of a planned meeting between the federal government and stakeholders in the region, he added that the meeting scheduled for the middle of this month, was a continuation of the stakeholders’ engagement of the government which saw Vice President Yemi Osinbajo visit all the oil-producing states. “We appeal to the Niger Delta Avengers not to resume hostilities. With the ceasefire, for 11 months, there was peace in the Niger Delta region. HOSCON, which is the parent of these youths, appeal to them to be patient with the government. After the meeting, we are hopeful that something good would come out of it and their concerns would be addressed,” he said. He also lament the continued payment of the 13 percent derivation fund to state governors, who he accused of mismanaging over N10 trillion paid to oil-producing states over the last 16 years. He therefore asked the Federal Government to ensure that the 13 percent Derivation Fund was paid directly to oil producing communities and not to state governors, especially that the governors might use the fund to prosecute the forthcoming elections.

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