Ogoni: Group Tasks Shell on Ogoni Clean-up
Environmental agencies have condemned the Federal Government for shielding Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) from taking responsibility for reckless and massive oil pollution in Ogoniland. Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/ FoEN) said the decision is "a mockery" of international best practice in the oil industry which requires that the polluter remediates.
Below is an article published by This Day Online:
Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/ FoEN) has stated that the attempts by the Federal Government to shield Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) from taking responsibility for reckless and massive oil pollution in Ogoniland is totally unacceptable and makes nonsense of efforts at bringing about lasting and true peace in the Niger Delta.
ERA/FoEN, reacting to media reports that government has engaged the services of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) to clean Ogoniland as part of efforts to restore the Niger Delta environment, said the decision is "a mockery" of international best practice in the oil industry which requires that the polluter remediates.
According to reports, Director General of NOSDRA, Bamidele Ajakaiye, had said, at a two-day workshop that funds had been made available and that UNEP was in the process of opening an office in Port Harcourt for the exercise.
The agency claimed it had remediated over 400 impacted sites and is gradually returning them to their natural state, while experts have been invited by government to clean-up the area around the Warri Refinery.
At that meeting, Environment Minister, John Odey, also disclosed that oil producing areas witnessed 2, 122 incidents of oil spills between January 2006 and the first six months of 2009 which will be cleaned up.
But ERA/FoEN, in a statement issued in Lagos, criticised government's invitation of UNEP to do the clean-up, saying the process of achieving genuine peace and reconciliation in the Niger Delta must not only be for the identification of problems that must be resolved, but also spot and sanction those that were responsible for such actions.
"Whose funds will be used to do the clean-up? This decision is highly disappointing and in fact is a certificate for Shell and its co-travellers in the oil industry to perpetrate more acts of environmental assault without taking responsibility. Rather than the so-called cleanup, government should be funding a comprehensive environmental audit of the Niger Delta," said ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey.
Bassey frowned at what he described as 'legitimization' of environmental degradation, insisting that spill figures provided by NOSDRA is a conjecture and a far cry from actual statistics as many oil spill incidents in the Niger Delta actually missed the headlines and are unreported.
"It is unacceptable that government decided to take Shellís responsibility in Ogoniland and that of other polluting companies in other parts of the region. Niger Deltans demand the list of the imaginary over 400 communities that were polluted by oil companies and remediated by government. Sadly, nothing was mentioned about compensating impacted people or restoring their livelihoods which have been destroyed in the oil spill incidents that always blamed on community people.
"Environmental Rights Action believes that it is intrinsically wrong for a United Nations agency to play the role of a contractor to a polluter whereas they are better placed to demand that the polluter cleans up their mess. The co-opting of the United Nations into this messy situation is an abuse of our collective sensibility," Bassey added.