Jun 29, 2006

Title: Ogoni: Environmental Crises in Niger Delta

Since oil was first discovered at Oloibiri,the entire Niger-Delta region have been exposed to several forms of environmental abuse.
Since 1956 when oil was first discovered at Oloibiri, the community and indeed the entire Niger-Delta region have been exposed to several forms of environmental abuse.

Their concerns, as articulated by the embattled Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta people, Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force and other pressure groups in the region, are that oil exploration activities in the Niger Delta endanger their communities, without any conscious, sustained effort by the partners in the oil exploration venture to cater for their needs either by providing basic amenities and welfare services or by ensuring the safety of the environment.

This has resulted in much social, economic and political tension and violence in the Niger-Delta, with the effect that the recent spate of kidnap and hostage taking of foreign oil workers has raised serious security concern to all the stakeholders in oil industry and the international community.

It is pertinent to note that oil spillage, gas flaring and all other forms of environmental disaster constitute serious environmental hazards particularly to flora and fauna.

Farmlands and sources of potable water are often polluted by on-shore spills. Inhabitants of oil producing areas often lose their means of livelihood to the disaster. To these victims, the phenomenon is most devastating.

Oil spillage is a worse form of pollution which poses great threat to man, the ecosystem and the environment. It is even worse because the impact of environmental pollution is usually felt on long-term, recurrent basis, making it difficult to arrive at an exact impact assessment as the incident occurs. Unfortunately this has been the lot of the oil producing communities.

However, the causes of oil spillage over the years have remained controversial. Some oil producing companies have pointed accusing fingers at some indigenes of the oil communities of illegally tapping oil from pipes in their desire to make quick riches, causing rupture to the pipes and leading to spillage.
Incidents of oil spillage had in the past caused irreparable damage on the farmlands and streams in the oil producing communities, often reducing inhabitants of the affected villages and communities to refugees. In some cases, the spillage has directly or indirectly caused death of people.

The magnitude of oil exploration activities in Niger-Delta is so enormous that the toxic effect of oil pollution and spillage on biological species, water contamination and habitat disturbance pose great biochemical and ecological impact.

The economic impact of exploration activities and oil spills on property, crop and fisheries losses, and so on has adversely impoverished the economic life of Niger-Delta people. The effect of the oil industry on occupational health, traditional values, life-style and customs of the people has tremendous effect on the socio cultural value of the people of the Niger-Delta.

Psychological, behavioral and personal well-being as well as the effect of noise-levels of operations on social stress cannot be over-emphasized.

The average community expects an organization, be it a government department or agency, parastatal, individual or commercial firm, institution or association operating in its local area to contribute meaningfully toward its economic and social development. They will among other opportunities be expected to provide regular employment for the young men and women from the area, purchase goods and services locally and consider local people first in the award of contracts. However, the reverse is the case in the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria where they are continuously exploited, constantly harassed and victimized and economically raped. It is so sad that the discovery of oil in this region has become a curse rather than a blessing.

Answers to the following questions must be provided if conscious effort is to be made at managing the prevailing crises in Niger-Delta. How seriously do the oil companies and their contractors take environmental protection? Can environmental degradation in Niger-Delta be avoided? If yes, why is it still lingering and making the people look as if they are the most violent set of people on earth.

Are the people benefiting from their God given natural resources? Or are they being exploited? All these and other issues must be addressed for peace to reign in the Niger-Delta region.
Informed of this development, the President in his wisdom has commenced discussions with all stakeholders in the Delta region with a view to finding a lasting solution to the problem. It was revealed that most of our Governors have been diverting funds meant for developmental purposes into their pockets, by stashing them in foreign banks and buying houses all over the world while watching their people suffer in penury and waging war of ignorance.

It is well known that mans responsibility over the environment is a divine assignment. The responsibility is not assigned exclusively to government but to mankind in general. Each of us has a responsibility for our environment, to protect it, to nurture it, and enhance it for optimum yield.

However, in todays complex society, corporate bodies would appear to have the prime responsibility, because in the main, it is corporate bodies who massively exploit the environment for good or ill.

The mass media should continue to do its glorious job of focusing attention on the environment bringing the entire world back to the basics of our life on planet earth, showing the devastations brought by careless industrial progress and demonstrating the imperative of environmental protection of Niger Delta region.
Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), and all agencies which are directly and indirectly involved in oil exploration should fashion out implementable strategies that will put to rest the lingering environmental crises in the Niger Delta. All the stakeholders should be mobilized and motivated for sustainable development as required by the United Nations.

Activities of all the state governors in the Niger Delta should be closely monitored by their people. The Federal government should set up a monitoring and inspectorate unit on the Niger Delta to be headed by the President, and charged with the responsibility of constantly and vigorously monitoring the implementation and use of oil derivation money in the area.