By - Adedoyin Shittu
Between 1976 and 1993, over two million barrels of oil polluted Ogoniland in 2,976 separate oil spills by the Royal Dutch Oil Company, Shell. More than two decades later, Shell was called out for its destruction of Ogoniland, though oil extraction has stopped in the land, the land is still polluted by oil spillage from pipes that passes through Ogoniland and also as a result of bunkering activities.
In 2006, the federal government of Nigeria commissioned the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to carry out an extensive Environmental Assessment Report (EAR) on Ogoniland. Over a 14-month period, the UNEP team examined more than 200 locations, surveyed 122 kilometres of pipeline, reviewed more than 5,000 medical records and engaged over 23,000 people at local community meetings. A detailed soil and groundwater contamination investigations were conducted at 69 sites, which ranged in size from 1,300 square metres (Barabeedom-K.dere, Gokana local government area (LGA) to 79 hectares (Ajeokpori-Akpajo, Eleme LGA). More than 4,000 samples were analyzed, including water taken from 142 groundwater monitoring wells drilled specifically for the study and soil extracted from 780 boreholes.
August 4, 2011, the UNEP submitted the assessment report to the Federal Government and the report confirmed what the people of Ogoniland have been agitating for all along. Oil spillage and pollution of over 50 years of oil operations in the region has penetrated further and deeper than many may have supposed and this has devastated Ogoniland.
Study of the UNEP report showed amongst others, extensive oil contamination of rivers, creeks, and ground waters in Ogoni land. The study found high concentrations of hydrocarbons including benzene, a known carcinogen, in outdoor air and drinking water. In at least 10 Ogoni communities where drinking water is contaminated with high levels of hydrocarbons, public health is seriously threatened. In Nisisioken Ogale, a town in Eleme Local Government Area in western Ogoniland, families are drinking water from wells that is contaminated with benzene at levels over 900 times above World Health Organization guidelines. Similarly, water samples taken from seven wells in the area were adjudged to contain 1,000 times the recommended level of hydrocarbons in Nigerian drinking water, which is three micrograms per litre. This site is close to a Nigerian National Petroleum Company pipeline.
So alarming was these findings by UNEP that it recommended that inhabitants of the area immediately stop using water from all their traditional sources, while the government was to immediately commence a clean-up exercise which could take up to thirty years, and might amount to the biggest soil and water remediation exercise ever embarked on.
The report also recommended that the contamination in Nisisioken Ogale warrants emergency action ahead of all other remediation efforts. An initial capital injection of $1 billion to be paid by the Nigerian government and oil companies to fund the cleanup exercise in Ogoniland was recommended by UNEP.
The federal government under the Goodluck Jonathan administration ignored the urgency of the report and did nothing despite the millions of lives at risk. It was until June 2, 2016 in President Buhari first tenure that the cleanup exercise was revisited. Represented by his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, the administration flagged off the Ogoniland cleanup at Bodo in a highly politicised ceremony. The Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) was also inaugurated in 2016 – the agency in charge of the coordination of the cleanup. Nothing significant was done till January 2019, that the agency announced that it was handing over 16 contractors to commence the clean-up processes.
Violations of the UNEP Report
UNEP identified some immediate action that should be carried out before anything else is done. These included: ensure that all drinking water wells where hydrocarbons were detected are marked, and that people are informed of the danger; adequate source of drinking water should be provided to those households whose drinking water supply is impacted; people in Nsisioken Ogale, who have been consuming water with benzene should be recorded on a medical registry and their health status assessed and followed up.
Other actions include, initiating a survey of all drinking water wells around wells where hydrocarbons were observed, signs should be posted in areas where hydrocarbons were observed on surface water warning people not to fish, swim or bathe in these areas and to advise all families whose rainwater samples tested positive to hydrocarbons against consuming the water, and mounting a public awareness campaign to warn individuals who are undertaking artisanal refining that such activities were damaging their health.
It is sad that in spite of all these identified immediate actions, people are still condemned to drinking, bathing and fishing in the heavily contaminated water, those who can afford it buy drinking water faraway from their community.
The “GuardianNewsPaper” reported on January 27th, 2019 that the HYPREP Project Coordinator, Dr. Marvin Dekil, insisted that in line with the emergency measures recommended, HYPREP carried out a medical outreach in two phases; first in 2017 and 2018 in Gokana, Tai, Khana and Eleme local councils, where patients with various medical conditions were attended to, and even surgeries carried out.
“About 20, 000 patients were treated with over 400 surgeries carried out,” he said. He also said that the governing council approved of a comprehensive water scheme for the whole of Ogoni which include the rehabilitation of all the existing water networks in Ogoni.
A recent visit by a group of journalists to Nsisioken Ogale in Ogoniland, an impacted area, shows that nothing of such was put in place.
“I spend N1,000 on ‘pure’ water we drink every week and N600 every two days on water with which we take our bathe. This is too expensive to manage and it is taking its toll on my small provision shop business, but I don’t have any other option because my children and I risk falling sick if we don’t do so,” Mrs Florence Ngerem from Imo State, who has lived over 10 years in Eleme told journalists.
Similarly, the youth president of Ogale clan in Eleme, Comrade Darlington Nyimeone said he and his family drink bottled water, lamenting, however that they still bathe with water from the community’s borehole said to be contaminated with benzene at levels 900 times above the World Health Organizations (WHO) recommendation.
This is contrary to the federal government’s claim that the implementation of the report will be done holistically and in a manner that ensures “transparency and accountability, HYPREP did not addressed these emergency issues before proceeding to the cleanup of some contaminated locations.
In January 2019, HYPREP announced that 16 companies were awarded the contract for the first phase of the remediation of the oil spill in Ogoni, after what it described as a competitive bidding process.
The 16 companies are;
(1) Louizont Ferretti Enterprises Ltd,
(2) Environmental Resources Managers Limited,
(3) Asonic Associates Limited,
(4) Mosvinny Nigeria Limited,
(5) Rey & Reina International Limited,
(6) Pacrim Engineering Ltd,
(7) Basic (Nigeria) Technology Limited,
(8) Newpal Nigeria Ltd.
(9) Amazing Environmental Solutions International Limited,
(10) Earthpro Unique Integrated Ltd,
(11) Nautilus (Nigeria) Engineering and Construction Limited,
(12) Tiptree Intertrade Nigeria Limited,
(13) Navante Oil & Gas Company Limited,
(14) Secura Investments Limited,
(15) Shamsa Resources and Services Ltd,
(16) Odun Environmental Limited which changed from Global Environmental Management Limited.
According to investigation carried out by PREMIUM Times, almost all of the 16 companies awarded contracts for the first phase of the exercise have no experience whatsoever in the remediation of oil spills. A bulk of the successful companies were set up for businesses such as poultry farming, cars sales, textile dealership and fashion, palm-oil production, building design, and construction. It was only Pacrim Engineering Limited who has anything remotely to do with the remediation of oil spills and none of the companies have a minimum of five-year experience in hydrocarbon remediation recommended by UNEP.
Basic Nigeria Technology Limited was set up to “carry on business as manufacturers of palm oil products including palm oil milling, edible and vegetable oil refining including the ownership, sale and dealership of such refineries, but the company was hired to do oil spill remediation job at the Oboolo site.
Mosvinny Nigeria Limited is in the business of “agricultural farming, mechanized farming, poultry farming, livestock breeders, animal husbandry and agricultural services in all its ramifications but it was allotted a site in Debon.
Louizont Ferretti Enterprises Ltd is in the business of “supply services and maintenance of oil field equipment, dealers in all types of cars, fashion house, imports and exports, trade, general merchants, general goods, buying agents dealers, dealers in textiles materials and merchandise of different description whether consumable items or not and general maintenance of office equipment,” but was contracted to do the cleanup at Buemene Korokoro,
Rey & Reina International Limited, which was allotted another section of Debon, was set up to sell and distribute general goods.
Maiduguri-based Shamsa Resources and Services Ltd was set up to “carry on the business of management training, finance and development consultancy services in all aspects of the development sector, to plan and conduct survey and study, project management, business analysis and change implementation,” was also allotted a remediation job at Debon.
Pacrim Engineering Ltd, which is allocated a remediation site at Nkeleokan Alode, seems to be the only company set up for oil spill recovery and clean-up services. But it was only incorporated on June 25, 2018, more than two months after the announcement of public tender by HYPRE.
This newspaper also learnt that the Ministry of Environment awarded contracts for project management, communication and public relations, and monitoring and evaluation processes to Associates Ltd and A.G. Partnership Ltd, Alliance Boots Limited, and Foxtrot O & G Company Nigeria Limited respectively.
As a result of this investigation, the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) issued a press release on May 9th, 2019 calling for the dissolution of the governing body of the HYPREP. According to the MOSOP President, Fegalo Nsuke, the revelations by Premium Times was only the tip of the iceberg when compared to monetary fraud that an investigation into the activities of HYPREP will reveal. He concluded by saying that HYPREP is a stinking house of corruption and fraud.
What is the State of the Ogoniland Cleanup
It was reported by the head of the cleanup project in HYPREP, Marvin Dekil, that $180 million out of the recommended $1 billion, has been released and the agency has released a total of N714.45 million advanced payment which is 15% of the money for the remediation task to the companies.
Recently Channels TV interviewed Dr Dekil and he announced that the project has started in earnest and the 21 contractors are on various sites carrying out remediation across the 4 local governments in Ogoni.
This is contrary to various reports concerning the clean up exercise, many people especially locals in Ogoniland have shown frustration in the way the exercise has been carried out. There is a lot of distrust among locals in Ogoniland and the people feel like a pawn in the hand of big players, just to be used to score cheap points. They no longer view visitors as sympathisers but as people using them to gain global attention. A tour around the affected community would usually translate to the payment of “good cash” before it is granted.
The head of National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), South South region, Mr Melvin Odobo, also raised concerns on the re-pollution of already re-mediated sites due to oil bunkering, carried out by youths in the region. He urges stakeholders to go back and urge the youth to stop such activities.
Recent actions by the federal government has not also helped, instead of the federal government to focus on redeeming the ecological disaster in the area, and replacing the lost sources of livelihood of the people, they are ordering the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to take over the operation of oil well in Ogoniland. it is worrying why the government will decide to resume oil extraction in Ogoniland when the tons of pollution on the land is yet to be cleaned.
Despite the fanfare that went alongside the announcement of the Ogoniland cleanup in 2016, Ogoni land still remain a wrecked environment and environmental disaster zone irrespective of the efforts made towards the clean-up, the exercise has been marred with controversies and shadiness. Communities are abandoned today because there is no source of livelihood, people there cannot farm or fish, death rate is high and the women have fertility issues, even after the murder of Ken Saro Wiwa and the other eight.
This has rubbished the struggle which the Ogoni people fought and are still fighting for. Even after Ken Saro Wiwa, MASOP is still intimidated to silence, yesterday, the 29th of July, 2019, some unknown persons attempted to break into the home of the President of MOSOP in Yeghe, Gokana local government area of Rivers State. This will be the second attempt to break into his home this year and a third attempt on his life, all in a bid to silence the Ogoni movement. But to be silent while the Ogoni people are raped of their Human Rights is treason.
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