Ogoni: Nigerian Government Criticized for Disregarding Impact of Oil Pollution

Posted in: Global Water News, Ground Water News, Misc Water Issues, Water Contamination
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Photo credit: UNPO

Article courtesy of Daily Independent Nigeria | August 20, 2014 | UNPO | Shared as educational material

The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) at a recent event to mark three years since the submission of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Report on environmental assessment of Ogoniland recently criticized the Federal government for the delay in the implementation of the Report. At the occasion, the group’s public Relations Officer, Mr. Legborsi Esaen had lamented that oil pollution in Ogoni environment had contaminated both surface and ground water at levels over 900 times above the World Health Organisation (WHO) prescribed safety limit. He said, “MOSOP is shocked that… three years after the UNEP Report on Ogoniland was presented to the Presidency, no arrangement had been made to save what is left of the Ogoni environment.” The National President of MOSOP also condemned the reluctance of the federal government to pay the $1 billion recommended in the UNEP report for the cleanup of Ogoniland.

MOSOP’s position calls to question the commitment of the government towards implementing the vital report which tasks the Nigerian government, her joint venture partners in the oil and gas industry and the communities to begin a comprehensive cleanup of Ogoniland, restore polluted environments and end all forms of ongoing oil contamination in the area. It is still fresh in our minds that the Ogoni people through MOSOP led by their late leader and environmental crusader, Ken Saro Wiwa condemned to death by a military tribunal and hanged with his compatriots, the Ogoni 9 under the late General Abacha’s junta in questionable circumstances, engaged Shell Petroleum Development Company SPDC in a protracted agitation over the serious pollution of their land as a result of oil exploration since 1956 when crude oil was first struck in the area. Irreconcilable differences between both parties had resulted in shell stopping its operations there in 1993. Shell though remains liable till date for the consequences of their operations over the years and is a major stakeholder in the implementation of the UNEP report. It is therefore worrisome that the FG that saw the need and commissioned UNEP in 2007 to carry out an environmental assessment of Ogoni land as part of the Ogoni reconciliation process should vacillate in the implementation of the UNEP report targeted at the wholesome remediation of the land from devastations resulting from decades of oil exploration, drilling and allied activities in the area.

Although crude oil earnings still account for about 90 percent of the nation’s revenue and her politics revolves around the sharing of oil earnings, it is incomprehensible why successive governments have been apathetic in addressing holistically the hazards posed by oil pollution to the environment and the economy of the oil bearing areas of Nigeria like Ogoniland. Oil spills and gas flaring which have polluted sources of water and the ecosystem denying the people their livelihood through fishing and farming are allowed to intolerable levels without sanctions on offending oil companies, whereas such practices have long been outlawed in their home countries. These are among the issues that the UNEP Report on Ogoni environment is designed to address on a sustainable basis with the FG playing a pivotal role to give a new lease of life to the long suffering Ogoni people. This Newspaper is aware that the FG is not the sole operator of the UNEP Report as it requires the involvement of other stake holders, particularly Shell and the Communities (Ogoni) coordinated by the government.

The Federal Government on its part has denied the MOSOP allegation that it is yet to take any action on the UNEP Report. The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke told the press in Abuja that the government has put in place the framework for implementation of the report. On the $1 billion Environmental Restoration Fund for Ogoniland recommended by UNEP, Mrs Diezani said the FG has approved a sharing formula which the joint venture partners will contribute 80%, the refineries 5% and the FG 15% from the Ecological Intervention Fund. She said the implementation of the report is designed to be accomplished through a process that would take some years. This must not be an excuse to unduly delay the implementation of the clean up of Ogoniland as recommended in the UNEP Report. The FG must fast track action on other vital recommendations like the establishment of Ogoniland Environmental Authority and the 8 measures towards remedying water contamination posing danger to public health in the area and that the actual environmental cleanup commences without further delay.

Equally important is the need to empower the Ogoni people who have sacrificed so much to the nation to find alternative means of economic sustenance.

The part of the report that reveals that high level of crude oil theft, sabotage and illegal refining in the local communities continue to pollute the environment and constitute serious obstacle to the restoration of the land should be well noted by MOSOP and the Ogoni people. The Ogoni communities should partner with the government and oil companies to bring to book groups and individuals engaged in these criminal activities to prevent further pollution of the Ogoni environment. There is need for the Federal Government to ensure that the standard set in the UNEP Report on Ogoniland restoration is applied to other oil-bearing communities devastated by oil pollution to forestall agitations and restiveness in the future.

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