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African Cultural and Fundamental Rights Council Task Government and Shell on Ogoni Cleanup

By Ben Ikari

On August 4, 2011, one year today, the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) released its  Environmental, Social and Health Impact Assessment report on decades of environmental pollution and degradation in Ogoni. The assessment that led to this report was sponsored by the Nigerian government and Shell Oil after Ogoni-MOSOP campaign for environmental and economic justice led by Ken Saro-Wiwa refused to give up demanding respect and justice.

In short, the devastating content of this report $hell and the government had covered was the reason Ken Saro-Wiwa was murdered when he revealed the genocidal design against Ogoni to the world and refused to call off the campaign as was demanded by Shell and government. One year after this report was released and presented to government and Shell nothing tangible has been done to save Ogoni land and people. No relief material other than some hundred gallons of water distributed to some Ogoni communities in a rusty tanker and a snail-like health evaluation of the Eleme communities revealed recently by Shell in partnership with the state government has been delivered to Ogoni of about 2 million people.

African Cultural and Fundamental Rights Council (AFCRC) USA,therefore calls on the Nigerian government and Shell Oil to without delay implement the UNEP recommendations, which includes adequate consultation with the Ogoni people, immediate intervention and setting up necessary mechanism for cleanup, job creation, building of research and other valuable centers and sustainable development, etc. Instead of just making empty promises as government and Shell will do today and subsequently, as we saw this past year, but for  the government formation of Hydrocarbon Pollution and Restoration Project for Ogoni about three week ago.

AFCRC USA demands immediate positive and physical actions be undertaken to help save Ogoni and give them a new and promising life,which should serve as a model for the rest of Niger delta. We insists UNEP serve as the On-site coordinator or management so that staff expertise will be utilized to allow full and acceptable implementation of the report. Of course, this report sufficiently indict Shell Oil and the Nigerian government, which though has the moral and legal responsibility to protect its citizens such as Ogonis from unsafe situations or threatening environment and attacks from both local and international predator individuals and organizations or corporations or governments chooses to expose Ogonis and other Niger deltans to exploitation, environmental time-bomb and death because of oil.

AFCRC USA, the Ogoni people and peoples of good conscience around the world will not accept attempts by government and $hell to trivialize the UNEP report and proceed to reinvestigating oil spill sites already evaluated and sampled by UNEP, as one of the mandates of the Hydrocarbon Pollution and Restoration Project above suggests. For about 50 years this pollution has been going on Nigeria and Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) Nigeria, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell have proven they lack the capability, integrity and good faith of any kind to protect and save the Ogoni environment and people alone. They can’t do better what they have done wrong in 50; and they know this,hence the UNEP with the expertise and resources.

UNEP should therefore, as a precautionary measure and assurance for a better job, which will meet the requirements of international best practice and original intent of the assessment, serve as the On-site management and implementer of  its report, especially the engineering or technical and scientific aspects of the recommendations. Meanwhile, while Shell and government are smiling to the banks and drinking beer with other luxurious life they live Ogonis are crying and in fear for their environment and mourning their hydrocarbons-related deaths.

Consequently, AFCRC USA, Ogonis at home and abroad, their friends and supporters will not cease holding the polluters accountable. Amnesty International and Platform London or Human Rights Watch, Friends of the Earth, the American and few other governments, etc. will not stop but continue to dialogue and chastise $hell and Nigerian government to stand and own up, clean up and pay up for the mess they have caused that culminates into what UNEP calls the largest cleanup in the world!

We shall not cease to demanding efficient cleanup, complete remediation and restoration of the environment and people by way of compensation for damages and lost livelihood. All destroyed mangrove forests have to be cleaned, revamped-fully replanted for lasting restoration and safety.

Meanwhile, for better understanding of the threats Ogonis face, see excerpts below. Page 25 (or 1.3), under the heading “The Ogoni struggle and the cessation of oil exploration and production, especially paragraph 1 that says: “While oil exploration and associated social and environmental consequences in Ogoniland began prior to Nigeria’s independence, the situation did not improve when the country gained independence in 1960. Environmental incidents, such as spills and uncontrolled flares, continued to occur in the area and responses were slow and inadequate.” See also page 9, paragraph 1 (under Executive Summary): “UNEP’s field observations and scientific investigations found that oil contamination in Ogoniland is widespread and severely impacting many components of the environment.

Even though the oil industry is no longer active in Ogoniland, oil spills continue to occur with alarming regularity-the Ogoni people live with this pollution everyday,” the report says. Under Public Health on page 10, paragraph 1 of the UNEP report, “The Ogoni community is exposed to petroleum hydrocarbons in outdoor air and drinking water, sometimes at elevated concentrations.” And that Ogonis, “are also exposed to dermal contacts from contaminated soil, sediments and surface water.” See paragraph 2 of page 10 of the UNEP report that says, “Since the average life expectancy in Nigeria is less than 50 years, it is a fair assumption that most members of the current Ogoniland community have lived with chronic oil pollution throughout their lives.”

The UNEP report as shown on page 10, paragraphs 1, 2, 3 and 4. Starting with Paragraph 1: “Oil pollution in many intertidal creeks has left mangroves denuded of leaves and stems, leaving roots coated in a bitumen-like substance sometimes 1 cm or more thick. Mangroves are spawning areas for fish and nurseries for juvenile fish and the extensive pollution of these areas is impacting the fish life-circle.” Paragraph 2: “Any crops in areas directly impacted by oil spills will be damaged, and root crops, such as cassava, will be unstable.

When farming commences, plants generally show signs of stress and yields are reportedly low than in non-impacted areas.” Paragraph 3: “When an oil spill occurs on land, fires often break out, killing vegetation and creating a crust over the land, making remediation or re-vegetation difficult.” Paragraph 4: “Channels that have been widened and the resulting dredged material are clearly evident in satellite images, decades after the dredging operation. Without proper rehabilitation, former mangrove areas which have been converted to bare ground are being colonized by invasive species such as nipa palm (which appears to be more resistant to heavy hydrocarbon pollution than native vegetation.”

“The report concludes that pollution of soil by petroleum hydrocarbons in Ogoniland is extensive in land, sediments and swampland,” as reported on page 9, in paragraph 1 bullet under “Contaminated soil and groundwater.”

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