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Nigerian Ogoniland oilspillage cleanup issue

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Received by email from Okeke Uche and Anasonye Festus (Scientists, University of Helsinki, Finland). Also sent to Jorma Ollia and Peter Voser, Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

Greetings………

Our attention has been drawn to the most recent report on the oil spillage issue in the Ogoniland, Nigeria. This is a great victory for us and has been long overdue.

We have gathered from many sources that the United Nations is interested in  monitoring the cleaning up of Ogoniland oil spillage which should last for several years.

Most recently, we have also gathered that the Federal Government of Nigeria is considering taking over the responsibility for cleaning up Ogoniland through the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) of Nigeria (“Nigeria: FG to Clean up Ogoniland“, 7/08/2011. This Day Newspaper, Nigeria).

However, we are deeply concerned by such move on the part of the Federal Government of Nigeria which have over the years proved to be ineffective and unreliable in this issue (see Afrique en ligne article printed below).

We hereby state our absolute distrust in this system and urge all parties concerned especially SHELL to do things right this time.

We believe that all efforts for this cleanup as reflected in the UNEP report should be long term and involve highly qualified experts.

We are also monitoring this issue closely and as a matter of fact (as scientists), we are making plans to study the ecosystem in this region for the effective application of appropriate bioremediation techniques in Ogoniland.

Regards,

Okeke Uche and Anasonye Festus (University of Helsinki, Finland).

Nigeria: UN to monitor Ogoni oil spill clean-up

Ogoni oil spill clean-up – The UN is said to be planning a close monitoring of the clean-up of the Ogoni oil spill in Nigeria as recommended by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in its report last week, the Guardian newspaper reported Tuesday, quoting Martin Nesirky, the spokesperson to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The paper said that the UN chief is being briefed about the details of the UNEP report, which called for the biggest oil spill clean-up ever recommended. Although Nesirky did not state what the initial reaction of the secretary-general was to the report, UN sources say the matter is high up on Ban’s agenda considering his global concern against pollution generally.

The UN sources added that the entire UN system, especially the UNEP and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), would be deployed with specific instructions to help Nigeria, the United Kingdom, Netherlands and the oil companies involved, especially Shell, to conduct an acceptable clean-up that is to last several years.

The resolve of the UN to conduct an effective follow-up, according to sources, is because the UNEP report itself detailed how oil companies and the Nigerian government failed to meet their own standards, and how the stipulated process of investigation, reporting and clean-up was deeply flawed in favour of the oil firms and against the victims.

For instance, while in the US, oil spills get immediate responses in order to avert community and media uproar, in the Niger Delta of Nigeria, where there are far more incidents of pollution, response if it comes at all can take as long as months.

Besides, sources say it would take a concerted effort to ensure that local contaminated areas in Ogoni are cleaned up in as long as five years, and the heavily-impacted mangrove areas and swamplands could even take a much longer number of years  – as much as up to 30 years.

Short of an international focus and monitoring from a credible body like the UN, the cleanup may easily become a mirage, a source stated.

Equally, the report itself asked that all sources of ongoing contamination must be brought to an end before the cleanup of the creeks, sediments and mangroves can begin.

Indeed, western media outlets and non-governmental organisations have since been awash with comments on the findings of the UNEP, which has called for what is deemed as the biggest ever oil cleanup in world record.

For instance, Amnesty International while commenting on the UNEP report said “oil companies have been exploiting Nigeria’s weak regulatory system for too long.”

According to Audrey Gaughran of Amnesty International, the process of reporting and investigation of spills in Nigeria do not “adequately prevent environmental damage and they frequently fail to properly address the devastating impact that their bad practice has on people’s lives.”

Regarding follow-up measures, the UNEP report recommends establishing three new institutions in Nigeria to support a comprehensive environmental restoration.

A proposed Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Authority would oversee implementation of the study’s recommendations and should be set up during a transition phase, which UNEP suggests should begin as soon as possible.

The authority’s activities should be funded by an Environmental Restoration Fund for Ogoniland, to be set up with an initial capital injection of US$ 1 billion contributed by the oil industry and the government, to cover the first five years of the clean-up.

A recommended Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Centre, to be built in Ogoniland and supported by potentially hundreds of mini-treatment centres, would treat contaminated soil and provide hundreds of job opportunities.

The report also recommends creating a Centre of Excellence in Environmental Restoration in Ogoniland to promote learning and benefit other communities impacted by oil contamination in the Niger Delta and elsewhere in the world.

Reforms of environmental government regulation, monitoring and enforcement, and improved practices by the oil industry are also recommended in the report.

The UNEP report stated that the environmental restoration of Ogoniland oil region could prove to be the world’s most wide-ranging and long-term oil clean-up ever, if contaminated drinking water, land, creeks and other ecosystems are to be brought back to full health, according to a UN report.

The independent scientific assessment, carried out by the UNEP over a 14-month period, showed greater and deeper pollution than previously thought after an agency team examined more than 200 locations, surveyed 122 kilometres of pipeline rights of way, analyzed 4,000 soil and water samples, reviewed more than 5,000 medical records and engaged over 23,000 people at local community meetings.

Pana 09/08/2011

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