LAGOS, Nigeria — Bishop Hyacinth Egbebo of Bomadi called on the Nigerian government to put an end to the oil spills in the Niger Delta region.

He said spills from oil exploration in the region had led to the deaths of many residents over the years as well as the destruction of aquatic organisms that help them earn a living. He said people in his diocese were endangered by toxic waste from crude oil and other chemicals used in oil drilling.

Egbebo said some of his own relatives had died of cancer as a result of the polluted water.

“Cancer is killing the people, but Nigeria is also killing the people. They have to do something about it and check the activities of these barges and ships belonging to various companies,” he said.

He said the militants in the Niger Delta were not young people; “Nigeria has been a militant against the people of the Niger Delta for several years.”

Speaking in late March, the bishop said his comments were based on his findings after a tour of several river communities.

“I confirmed the claims by the locals that the activities of oil companies have made life miserable for them,” he said. “Large vessels, barges and oil companies’ activities had destroyed fishing nets, canoes and polluted the water, thereby making life miserable and difficult” because many make a living by “fishing and hunting other aquatic organisms.”

“Barges and vessels conveying crude oil to Agge Deep Seaport often pollute the water with crude oil,” he said.

He said barges and other vessels transporting crude oil often leak, polluting the water people use for drinking, cooking and bathing.

He blamed the oil companies for their insensitivity to the situations of the affected communities. He added that officials of corporations use military personnel to intimidate local residents.

Egbebo appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to develop the Agge Deep Seaport into a full-fledged seaport to attract development and create job opportunities.

According to him, it is ethically wrong for communities in this area to only be used as a route to export crude oil, without attracting development from around the country, as is the case in other developed countries.

“From Ojobo to Ayakoromo, there are over 100 communities, and they don’t have drinking water, electricity or roads, but this is where you get the wealth of the nation,” he said.