Mar 10, 2010

Ogoni: Oil Bunkering in Ogoniland

Sample ImageThe Ogoni people of Rivers State are known for fighting against destruction of their land mass, agriculture, water and aquatic lives; a fallout of oil spillage from companies operating in their various communities over the years.


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Shell, a Dutch oil major which operated over the years received a heavy blow from the people over their companies. Consequently it was chased out of Ogoni land for allegedly refusing to carry out remediation or clean-up and paying of compensation to the affected various communities.

Several negotiations by both the federal and Rivers State government including authorities of Shell to reconcile the company and the aggrieved Ogoni people to pave way for the company to return to its business met a brick wall. But now there seems to be peace in sight in the area following the Chibuike Amaechi-led administration that has ushered in the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which now handles clean up at different locations.

This international remediation body is believed to have international reputation because of its expertise and technology, which is why it has the support of Governor Amaechi's government to carry on clean up in Ogoni land.
Unfortunately, it came to the public glare that since the Ogoni succeeded in chasing out Shell from their land pending an accepted clean-up of their polluted environment, illegal oil bunkering by some oil thieves within and outside the Ogoni assumed an alarming dimension.

It would be recalled that last year, the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) deployed to Rivers State to hunt down militants and other criminal elements announced that it discovered some illegal oil refining points along laid pipelines.

The reports widely carried by various media houses were that some criminals were refining substandard petrol (PMS), diesel (AGO) and kerosene which they were making fast money at the expense of the government refineries.

The JTF reported the illegality going on in the Ogoni land but failed to tell Nigerians if any of the economic saboteurs was arrested. It is interesting to know that till date the illegal bunkering is still thriving across the land without a stop being put to it by security operatives, especially the Rivers State Police Command with its several divisions manned by Divisional Police Officers (DPO), as well as soldiers and mobile police officers deployed from other commands for special duty in the area.

The operations of these oil thieves irked Governor Amaechi who vented his anger at Ogoni people recently, charging them to fight the illegal bunkering and support the clean-up job the UNEP has come to carry out. He threatened, moreover, that if they fail, his administration would withdraw its support to the UNEP programme. The governor made his position known during a recent meeting between the Presidential Implementation Committee on the clean-up of oil impacted communities in Ogoni land, the leadership of UNEP and the Rivers State government.

The governor said reports of unabated illegal bunkering in various sites of the oil-rich area at the time UNEP experts were engaged in the clean-up of old oil spills, calls for serious concern.A cross-section of human rights activists in the state whose opinions were sought by Daily Independent condemned the attitude of those in the illegal business in Ogoni land, whether they were indigenes or not.They wondered why the Ogoni people who protested against Shell over the years concerning oil spillage are now allowing same harm to their environment.

Amaechi has however directed secretary to the state government, Mr. Magnus Abe, who is also an Ogoni son, to convey a meeting of Ogoni stakeholders to urgently address the issue, noting that Ogoni elite and leaders must re-assure the federal and state government including UNEP officials of their collective support to fight the illegal business in their land.

The governor noted that the Ogoni and entire people of Rivers State are not the poorest in Nigeria and questioned the rationale behind the renewed illegal bunkering when his administration had resolved to improve on the lives of the citizenry through provision of social amenities.

The United Nations Environmental Project coordinator, Mr. Michael Cowing, confirmed in his report on the remediation work that there are new oil spill sites caused by activities of illegal bunkerers and cautioned against the continuation of the activities. Some observers believe that the oil thieves in Ogoni area are operating freely without risking arrest because they grease the palms of security agencies posted there to check criminalities ranging from hostage taking, armed robbery, illegal oil bunkering and so on.

Consequently, Governor Amaechi recently directed the Commissioner of Police, Abba Suleman, to transfer all the DPOs in Ogoni land over their inability to end the illegal business.