Aug 04, 2014

Ogoni: Three Years After, UNEP Recommendations Remain Unimplemented

Today [4 August 2014] marks three years since a detailed report by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) was published. Little has been done to protect the environment surrounding the lands of the Ogoni people in the Niger Delta. The high rates of cancer affecting the Ogoni people and their land, due to the presence of hydrocarbons and carcinogens in the water  could amount to a case of environmental terrorism. 

Below is a story published by Sahara Reporters:

August 4th, 2014 will make it precisely three years since the detailed report of the United Nations environmental program study on Ogoniland was submitted to the presidency.

 As a people, our non-violent approach has been our strength and weakness. 

Strength for the support and commitment of the international community to our cause and weakness in a system where only violence and criminality are rewarded.

No doubt, were a study to be conducted in other parts of the Niger Delta , a similar or not too far fetched report will also be gotten. 

To the authorities, peace and stability in Niger Delta simply means uninterrupted flow of the black gold from the area. My grouse with our brothers that carried arms against the state is that it was for selfish reasons.

Amnesty as it were, was just one of the many recommendations of the ‎Ledum Mitee led Niger Delta Technical Committee.

The arms have been laid down and I suppose Amnesty have solved our many problems as a people. ‎Well, it's no.

So what happened to this report and all the fantastic recommendations?

The call for the implementation of the recommendations of the United Nations Environmental Program UNEP report on Ogoniland is already stale news since it is un-officially our new Ogoni anthem in the last three years.

For how long should the government allow our oil and gas deposits untapped?

Well, for as long as our environment is not cleaned up and the UNEP report remains  un-implemented. This is an un-written agreement every Ogoni Son and Daughter have endorsed.

Ogoni with a little over a million people at home, with about 60% of the population resident in our villages where the effect of the pollution is extremely high, Of most immediate concern is the fact that our community members are still drinking water daily from wells contaminated with benzene, a known carcinogen, at levels over 900 times above the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline and 1000 times above Nigerian drinking water standards.

Benzene was detected in all air samples at concentrations ranging from 0.155 to 48.2 g/m3. Approximately 10 per cent of detected benzene concentrations in Ogoniland were higher than the concentrations WHO and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) report as corresponding to a 1 in 10,000 cancer risk.

In 49 samples tested, UNEP observed severe contamination with hydrocarbons in soil at depths of at least 5m. In other sites, up to 8 cm layer of refined oil was observed floating on the groundwater, which serves the community wells – their source of drinking water. In at least seven wells examined, the hydrocarbon contamination is at least 1,000 times higher than the Nigerian drinking water standard of 3 g/l. Surface water throughout the creeks in the area also contains high levels of hydrocarbons.

This is a case of environmental terrorism.

Presently, the death rate of our brothers at the grassroots is very high with very limited cancer screening centers in Nigeria, may God help us. Despite the unanimous call for the implementation of the report by all Ogonis, greater percentages of our people neither have a copy of the report nor have been privileged to study the report.

Without exaggeration, about 40% of Ogonis are illiterates, and of the remaining 60%, not more than  30% are currently in possession of the report despite the fact that the report is available on the internet for free download, what is the percentage of our computer literacy?

My humble suggestion is that there is urgent need to reproduce this report in English and possibly our local languages and distribute freely to every son and daughter of Ogoni in particular and Niger Delta at large to further increase the awareness of the environmental challenges and the associated risks we are currently living with.

The UNEP report is supposedly a litmus test of the level of pollution in every part of Niger Delta.

Thus, if this same study is conducted in any part of the region, a result not too farfetched from that of the Ogonis will be gotten.

Premised on this fact, i call on our brother, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to remember the sacrifice and contributions of the Ogonis to the sympathy, prominence and recognition Niger Delta as a people/region currently enjoys today which is also a factor that also added to his 'goodluck' to push him this far and please commence the immediate cleanup of Ogoniland in particular and the Niger Delta Region in general.