The African Cultural and Fundamental Rights Council (AFCRC), USA congratulates the newly formed Ogoni Environmental Protection Agency (OGEPA) for its emergence at a time Ogoni is at environmental crossroads.
We especially thank the new agency for its vision aimed at achieving broad-based tree planting throughout Ogoni territory. This is a great feat that should receive the appreciation and support of local, national, regional and international groups or organizations and governments.
It is the hope of AFCRC that this new agency will get the training, personalities, attention and support needed to achieve its aims and objectives, and grow to serve as watchdog in collaboration with government agencies, oil companies and the international community in efforts to save and protect the Ogoni and Niger delta environment from further degradation.
The local and international civil society groups and governments should assist to preserve this agency so that it will not die like many others around the world, which emerged and were subsequently buried for lack of funding or credibility issues.
Meanwhile, tree-planting initiative in Ogoni, when considering the level of Shell Oil and Nigerian government degradation of the land speaks to the desire of the Ogoni people to survive. It therefore requires no overemphasis expressing the importance of tree-planting because it is evident trees adds to the beauty of green vegetation, which helps greener and better or longer life. The wisdom in planting trees is humongous…trees increases and better the intake of oxygen and makes good other benefits.
AFCRC believes that, although it will not be easy to bring back what the oil companies and Nigerian government have destroyed, these trees shall help the natural purification and healing process of Ogoni land while the mechanical and otherwise aspects shall be left for Shell Oil and the Nigerian government to immediately clean, revamp or restore and beautify to blossom and brim.
It is obvious that the destruction of the forests and common trees in our communities will and have damaged our health and daily lives like the oil companies and Nigerian government’s destruction of the mangroves in the creeks deprives Ogonis of food and also deprive sea inhabitants (fishes, seafood, etc.) of their home, which serves as a breeding place for most of these inhabitants. The mangrove among many benefits, also protect our communities from sea waves and flooding.
When oil spills occur and caused environmental pollution and devastation, experience and studies shows, that replenishing by replanting the entire mangrove allows for proper clean-up and resuscitation of the degraded land or creeks. Tree-planting by OGEPA is a pointer and reminder of this crucial aspect of cleaning the Ogoni creeks when the clean-up starts.
AFCRC thus charges the Ogoni Environmental Protection Agency to work with the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), other Ogoni, national and international human and environmental rights/protection groups to serve as monitor or watchdog to ensure Shell and the Nigerian government adheres to international best practices. This is when they partner with the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) to clean Ogoni sooner than later.
It is only when the mangroves are replanted that the mechanical or technical clean-up shall be said to be complete and better or rightly done. Shell and the government also have a responsibility/duty to pay adequate compensation to Ogonis for their loses, which includes deaths caused by decades of ecological warfare.
Finally, the emergence of Ogoni Environmental Protection Agency and its tree-planting efforts are signs pointing to who the Ogoni people are in terms of imagination and responding to their needs should they have the resources or allowed to use their oil and gas and other resources to develop at their pace as obvious in practical and fiscal federalism.
Ben Ikari, for and on behalf of AFCRC-USA