By Etta Michael Bisong
Four years after the submission of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoni following an independent assessment of contaminated lands, ground water, surface water, sediments, vegetation, air quality, public health, industry practices and institutional issues in ogoni land, south-south Nigeria, the Federal Government of Nigeria, which commissioned the study is yet to act on the recommendations.
Environmental rights groups in commemoration of the fourth anniversary of the release of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoniland, a community in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta have drawn the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari to the huge ecological devastation bedeviling the region.
The groups which conmprise Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth Europe and the National Coalition on Gas Flaring and Oil Spills in the Niger Delta (NACGOND) highlighted the continued corporate recklessness as well as oil pollution as two critical issues that the Buhari’s administration must address to commence the process of restoring normalcy to the area labelled as one of the most contaminated areas in the world.
An evaluation study conducted by ERA/FoEN on the implementation of the UNEP’s Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland, “Four Years On,” revealed that none of the 27 recommendations captured in UNEP’s report have being implemented aside from partial awareness activities carried out in some parts of the region.
Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, executive director, ERA/FoEN while addressing stakeholders during at the workshop on the non-implementation of UNEP report held in Abuja, commended the Buhari’s administration for the urgent attention given to this lingering issue mostly the meeting convened on 28 July between the government, UNEP, the oil industry and representatives of affected communities.
“We hope that this meeting signals the start of a meaningful process to implement UNEP’s recommendations,” he said.
UNEP’s scientific study, submitted to the federal government under the reign of former president Goodluck Jonathan in 2011, observed that 41 sites pollution had reach ground water levels and contaminated with benzene a known carcinogen 900 times above World Health Organisation (WHO) requirements. The report also noticed that in several communities’ soil contamination by hydrocarbons was found up to the depth of 5 metres making farming and other sources of livelihoods unattractive.
Furthermore, the UNEP report on Ogoniland accused oil company Royal Dutch Shell of negligence to thoroughly carry out genuine remediation of the menace for which it is responsible. It also found that Shell’s clean-up methods in Nigeria and the maintenance of its infrastructure do not meet international best practices or even comply with the company’s own standards.
UNEP recommended the establishment of an Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Authority tasked with overseeing a clean-up operation, funded by an initial $1 billion contributed by the oil industry and the Nigerian government.
It also canvassed regulatory strengthening of the industry, monitoring public health, and emergency measures to address the grave risks faced by the people of Ogoniland from contaminated water.
Additionally, UNEP made it clear that Shell must overhaul its remediation procedures in Nigeria so that clean-up of oil spills is effective.
Pathetically, four years on, these recommendations remain almost entirely unimplemented while the people of Ogoniland and the wider Niger Delta are forced to live with the aftermath of oil pollution that increasingly affects the health, the livelihoods, and the environment of the people of the region.