By Patrick Aigbokhan
The long-aged controversy over the polluted Ogoni land has continued to draw attention of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) as perpetrator of the act, Shell Nigeria Limited has refused to comply with the order to clean up the degraded and polluted land.
The Ogoni land is located in Rivers State on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea, east of the city of Port Harcourt. It extends across the Local Government Areas (LGAs) Khana, Gokhana, Eleme and Tae. Traditionally, Ogoni land is divided into the six kingdoms of Babbe, Gokana, Ken-Khana, Nyo-Khana, Eleme and Tai.
In its assessment released to the Nigerian Government in 2011, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) recommended that the challenges of oil extraction in the Niger Delta and the cleanup of the said Ogoni land, but actions are yet to be taken to bring the situation under control.
ERA/FoEN has reiterated the need for urgent action on the total clean-up of the land, lamenting that life expectancy of inhabitants of the land is already shortened, following effects of the pollution.
At a press briefing held Tuesday at the group’s office in Lagos, themed, ‘No Progress On Ogoni Cleanup’, Dr. Godwin Ojo, the group’s Executive Director, who alarmed that the Ogoni environment is at its worst, with people suffering impoverishment and misery, also noted that the pre-clean up emergency relief measures recommended by UNEP has not been addressed.
He mentioned the relief measures to include access to clean water, rather than the benzene polluted water sources they rely on, among others.
Dr. Ojo said, “It took exactly five years after the report was submitted to the federal government before acceptance of responsibility by Shell Oil Company and the federal government. With pressure from civil society groups, the proper clean up exercise was flagged-off in 2006 in Bodo city, Rivers state by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
“The The expectation that greeted the ceremony, which had the Ogoni people and hundreds of civil society groups in support has however dimmed barely a year after as the promised clean up is still bogged down in bureaucracy and controversies. The plan for the cleanup is still shrouded in secrecy and has not been formally subjected to public scrutiny.
“The cleanup efforts presented to the general public remained remains shaky, lacking a holistic approach and without timeliness for the cleanup proper. Even with the inauguration of the governing council to provide for an institutional framework to drive the process, no verifiable progress has been made as no single drop of oil has been cleaned from Ogoni. Shell is bound to compromise the process, if the company continues to be a member of the governing council with oversight functions for the cleanup.”
In his words, The ERA/FoEN Executive Director noted that as the cleanup remains in limbo, more damning disclosure of willful exposure of oil producing communities to hazards continue to mount against Shell oil Company that continues to operate with impunity in the Niger Delta.
It is recalled that while the UNEP report recommended a $1 billion initial restoration fund for Ogoni, ERA/FoEN recommends US$100 billion clean up and restoration fund to recover the entire Niger Delta. But not a penny had since been paid by the oil company.
The civil society group however urged that swift action be taken towards total cleanup of the affected Ogoni community.
“We urge a clean and unambiguous commitment on the part of government and Shell that this process will not be a repeat of its previous modus operandi where it had become adept at covering up oil spills instead of actually cleaning it.
We restate here that our environment is not for sale. Our environment is our life. No more delays, clean up Ogoni now!” Ojo reiterated.