- Category: International
- Published on Saturday, 06 August 2011 10:08
- Written by Admin
- Hits: 1117
For over a decade, Ogoni activists drew the attention of the world to the environmental degradation of the area resulting from oil exploration without concern for the well-being of the people and the environment; which led to the invitation of United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2004.
The committee, headed by Most Rev. Matthew Kukah, which collaborated with UNEP, led by Director Environmental Policy Implementation, Mr Ibrahim Thiaw, admitted that all samples taken from the air, water and soil in over 200 locations in the area showed that Oganiland has Hydrocarbon materials hanging in the air and floating layers of oil that makes it unsafe for human habitation
The report stated that while individual lands in Ogoni may be cleaned up within five years, it will certainly take up to 30 years to clean up the rest of the area.
Jonathan said as a committed member of the UN, Nigeria has committed both her financial and human lives to the restoration of peace globally; and it is therefore important that the UN assist with both material and human resources to avoid imminent global catastrophe in Nigeria.
The President said though sourcing the whopping sum was a huge burden on both the government and Shell company, the require expertise for a successful clean up exercise was much more crucial to source, in order to prevent a repeat of the past where clean up jobs yielded little result.
The Ogoni Issue
“The Ogoni issue is a well known issue but for me, being one from for the Niger Delta, the issues are quite clear to me. As noted by Kukah, the diagnosis have been done, the laboratory process have been done and even the drugs have been identified, probably what is left is the money. But not only the money for procurement the drugs, we must also get expert medical doctors to handle the matter.
Photo: A man walking near the spilled crude oil on the shores and in the waters of the Niger Delta swamps of Bodo in the oil-producing Ogoniland.
He said “the case study will also help us not only to redress the Ogoni problem but also to look into other parts of this country where oil exploration and production have been going on over the period. For the Federal Government, we have to thank you for this work and I assure you we will look into the report. I will call all the key stakeholders involved for us to look into it and see what we can do base on the clear recommendations provided”.
“I am using this opportunity to call on UN and UNEP to see that Nigeria is a committed member and we have paid our dues in terms of solving world and regional problems, we have participated in peace keeping, we have invested financial resources and lives of our citizens to bring peace to the world. So, I believe in these days of environmental wars, the UN will come to our aid”.
According to him, “the environmental challenges we have are severe. Environmental challenges we have are more critical because pollutant can migrate to other places we don’t expect. So, in addition to helping us to conduct this study, I call on UNEP to assist us to redress this problem. It will not be easy to set up the institutions in the recommendation and run them and expect a good result without the assistance of the UN”.
He promised that “the Nigerian government is going to discuss with Shell and other companies operating in the areas and other relevant government agencies to see how we can handle this report. But let me assure you that we are not going to put this report in our drawers but we are going to act on it and you will surely know about”.
“I most first of all thank the Ogoni people for allowing UNEP to conduct the studies. Today we are happy that a comprehensive study on Ogoniland has been conducted on the whole of Ogoniland as a key study of the situation in the Niger Delta”.
Earlier, Bishop Kukah had urged President Jonathan to commence his government’s transformation agenda in Ogoniland by mobilising resources to the area for social and infrastructural development.
Kukah disclosed that “while the report provides clear operational recommendations for addressing the widespread oil pollution across Ogoniland, UNEP recommends that the contamination in Nisisioken Ogale warrants emergency action ahead of all other remediation efforts”.
According to the report, the environmental restoration of Ogoniland could prove to be the world’s most wide-ranging and long term oil clean-up exercise ever undertaken if contaminated drinking water, land, creeks and important ecosystems such as mangroves are to be brought back to full, productive health.
“A major new independent scientific assessment, carried out by the UNEP, shows that pollution from over 50 years of oil operations in the region has penetrated further and deeper than many may have supposed.
The assessment has been unprecedented. Over a 14-month period, the UNEP team examined more than 200 locations, surveyed 122 kilometres of pipeline rights of way, reviewed more than 5,000 medical records and engaged over 23,000 people at local community meetings”.
It said “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). Altogether 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”.
‘Oil spills in the Niger Delta are a tragedy’ – Shell Nigeria MD
In its key findings, the report revealed that “some areas, which appear unaffected at the surface, are in reality severely contaminated underground and action to protect human health and reduce the risks to affected communities should occur without delay says UNEP’s”
“Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland.In at least 10 Ogoni communities where drinking water is contaminated with high levels of hydrocarbons, public health is seriously threatened, according to the assessment that was released today”.
It added that “in one community, at Nisisioken Ogale, in western Ogoniland, families are drinking water from wells that is contaminated with benzene- a known carcinogen-at levels over 900 times above World Health Organization guidelines. The site is close to a Nigerian National Petroleum Company pipeline”.
Spill, tragedy — Shell
Meanwhile, the managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company, subsidiary of the Anglo Dutch oil giant, Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu, has described oil spills in the Niger Delta as a tragedy. He said in a statement yesterday that, “Oil spills in the Niger Delta are a tragedy, and The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) takes them very seriously. That is why we have always accepted responsibility for paying compensation when they occur as a result of operational failure.
“SPDC has always acknowledged that the two spills in the Bodo area in 2008, which are the focus of extensive media reports today, were caused by such operational failure. Even when, as is true in the great majority of cases, spills are caused by illegal activity such as sabotage or theft, we are also committed to cleaning up spilt oil and restoring the surrounding land.”
He said it is unfortunate that inaccurate reporting has created the impression that SPDC in particular and oil companies in general are responsible for all oil spills in Nigeria.
“The two spills at issue here resulted in around 4,000 barrels of oil being spilt. It is regrettable that any oil is spilt anywhere, but it is wildly inaccurate to suggest that those two spills represent anything like the scale which some reports refer to. Equally, speculation by the plaintiffs’ lawyers as to the level of compensation which may be payable is misguided and massively in excess of the true position.”
He said “concerted effort is needed on the part of the Nigerian government (which itself owns a majority interest in the assets operated by SPDC under a joint operating agreement with the NNPC), working with oil companies and others, to end the blight of illegal refining and oil theft in the Niger Delta, both of which perpetuate poverty. This is the major cause of the environmental damage which media reports have so graphically illustrated.
“This report makes a valuable contribution towards improving understanding of the issue of oil spills in Ogoniland. All oil spills are bad – bad for local communities, bad for the environment, bad for Nigeria and bad for SPDC. Although we haven’t produced oil in Ogoniland since 1993, we clean up all spills from our facilities, whatever the cause, and restore the land to its original state.
“The majority of oil spills in Nigeria are caused by sabotage, theft and illegal refining. We urge the Nigerian authorities to do all they can to curb such activity, and we will continue working with our partners in Nigeria, including the government, to solve these problems and on the next steps to help clean up Ogoniland.”
“UNEP scientists found an 8 cm layer of refined oil floating on the groundwater which serves the wells. This was reportedly linked to an oil spill which occurred more than six years ago. While the report provides clear operational recommendations for addressing the widespread oil pollution across Ogoniland, UNEP recommends that the contamination in Nisisioken Ogale warrants emergency action ahead of all other remediation efforts”.
According to it, “while some on-the-ground results could be immediate, overall the report estimates that countering and cleaning up the pollution and catalyzing a sustainable recovery of Ogoniland could take 25 to 30 years”.
“This work will require the deployment of modern technology to clean up contaminated land and water, improved environmental monitoring and regulation and collaborative action between the government, the Ogoni people and the oil industry. The report provided the scientific basis on which a long overdue and concerted environmental restoration of Ogoniland, a kingdom in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region, can begin.
“The oil industry has been a key sector of the Nigerian economy for over 50 years, but many Nigerians have paid a high price, as this assessment underlines.
“It is UNEP’s hope that the findings can break the decades of deadlock in the region and provide the foundation upon which trust can be built and action undertaken to remedy the multiple health and sustainable development issues facing people in Ogoniland. In addition it offers a blueprint for how the oil industry—and public regulatory authorities- might operate more responsibly in Africa and beyond at a time of increasing production and exploration across many parts of the Continent”.
“The clean-up of Ogoniland will not only address a tragic legacy but also represents a major ecological restoration enterprise with potentially multiple positive effects ranging from bringing the various stakeholders together in a single concerted cause to achieving lasting improvements for the Ogoni people”.
However, it is not yet uhuru for the people of Ogoni as, according to the report, all sources of ongoing contamination must be brought to an end before the clean-up of the creeks, sediments and mangroves can begin.
Among its other findings are
• Control and maintenance of oilfield infrastructure in Ogoniland has been and remains inadequate: the Shell Petroleum Development Company’s own procedures have not been applied, creating public health and safety issues.
• The impact of oil on mangrove vegetation has been disastrous. Oil pollution in many intertidal creeks has left mangroves—nurseries for fish and natural pollution filters- denuded of leaves and stems with roots coated in a layer of bitumen-type substance sometimes one centimetre or more thick.
• The five highest concentrations of Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons detected in groundwater exceed 1 million micrograms per litre (?g/l) – compared to the Nigerian standard for groundwater of 600 ?g/l.•
• When an oil spill occurs on land, fires often break out, killing vegetation and creating a crust over the land, making remediation or revegetation difficult. At some sites, a crust of ash and tar has been in place for several decades.
• The surface water throughout the creeks in and surrounding Ogoniland contain hydrocarbons. Floating layers of oil vary from thick black oil to thin sheens.
• Despite community concerns, the results show that fish consumption in Ogoniland, either of those caught locally or purchased from markets, was not posing a health risk.
The report said that fish tend to leave polluted areas in search of cleaner water. However, the fisheries sector is suffering due to the destruction of fish habitat and highly persistent contamination of many creeks. Where entrepreneurs have established fish farms for example their businesses have been ruined by an “ever-present” layer of floating oil.
• The Ogoni community is exposed to hydrocarbons every day through multiple routes. While the impact of individual contaminated land sites tends to be localized, air pollution related to oil industry operations is all pervasive and affecting the quality of life of close to one million people.
• Artisanal refining (a practice whereby crude oil illegally obtained from oil industry operations is refined in primitive stills), is endangering lives and ultimately causing pockets of environmental devastation in Ogoniland and neighbouring areas. Remote sensing revealed that in Bodo West, in Bonny LGA, an increase in artisanal refining between 2007 and 2011 has been accompanied by a 10% loss of healthy mangrove cover – or over 307,380 square metres.
• Remediation by enhanced natural attenuation (RENA) – a way of boosting the ability of naturally-occuring microbes to breakdown oil and so far the only remediation method observed by UNEP in Ogoniland – has not proven to be effective. Currently, SPDC applies this technique on the land surface layer only, based on the assumption that given the kind of oil concerned, factors such as temperature and an underlying layer of clay, hydrocarbons will not move deeper. However, in 49 cases UNEP observed hydrocarbons in soil at depths of at least 5 m.
Next Steps Recommendations
Through a combination of approaches, individual contaminated land areas in Ogoniland can be cleaned up within five years, while the restoration of heavily-impacted mangrove stands and swamplands will take up to 30 years.
However, according to the report, all sources of ongoing contamination must be brought to an end before the clean-up of the creeks, sediments and mangroves can begin.
The report recommends establishing three new institutions in Nigeria to support a comprehensive environmental restoration exercise.
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 project.
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 SPDC Managing Director Mutiu Sunmonu said. (Vanguard)