Ogoni: Oral Intervention on the Human Rights Situation of States and Territories threatened with Ex
Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
24th Session of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations
31st July 4th, August, 2006
Agenda Item 7:The Human Rights Situation of States and Territories threatened with Extinction for Environmental Reasons, with particular reference to Indigenous Peoples
Mr.Chairperson and distinguished members of the Working Group,
I am indeed grateful to be given the opportunity to address this august assembly. I am Legborsi Saro Pyagbara representing the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), the umbrella organisation for the about seven hundred thousand Ogoni Indigenous minority in the Niger Delta of Nigeria.
Mr.Chairperson, the environment defines who we are as Indigenous peoples and we are defined by the environment. When our environment is threatened, we are also threatened because our existence and identity is inextricably linked to the survival of our environment. We do not need the government to define us.
The Ogoni story and that of other Niger Delta Indigenous peoples is a clear manifestation of the threats that a community face when its environment is blindly plundered and its resources rapaciously raped the way the Nigeria state in collaboration with oil multinationals have done in the Niger Delta of Nigeria.
Mr. Chairperson, Articles 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, stressed that in no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence. The Nigeria government has deprived the Ogoni people of its means of subsistence for the past decades by waging an ecological war in the Niger Delta which has destroyed the environment and the local economic support systems which thrives on this environment thus threatening our existence as a people.
Mr. Chairperson, just yesterday, the Ogoni people including other Niger Delta Indigenous communities marked the fiftieth anniversary of oil production in the area amidst the recitation of stories of great pains and anguish .On August 3rd 1956, the drilling rigs of Shell began pumping oil out of the belly of the Delta. That singular event in 1956 marked the beginning of the ecological war which the government of Nigeria and the oil multinationals had waged against Indigenous communities in the Delta. In this ecogical war, nothing is spared as flora and fauna fall to the toxicity of the effects of oil exploitation.
In the Ogoni area, the environmental effects of having more than 100 oil wells have been severe. Between 1993 and 2003, almost 35 separate oil spills, averaging 1000 barrels each, occurred in Ogoni. Response to oil spills is slow, and often very damaging. A major spill at Ebubu in 1970 was set alight, causing irreparable damage to the ground it spilled on. Though the area of the spill is unusable, and still leaks oil into surrounding water supplies, Shell has claimed several times that this spill site had been cleaned. This is the most politicized oil spill site clean-up in Nigeria.
Oil spills are not the only environmental disaster the Ogoni have had to deal with. Oil production began in the Niger Delta 50 years ago and so did the practice of flaring associated gas. The flames of Shell in the name of gas flares, dot the Niger Delta skyline burning 24 hours a day (some of them for the last 40 years), and in the Ogoni area were often situated near villages. The villagers have to live with the constant noise of the flare, and the area covered in thick soot, which contaminates water supplies when it rains. Air pollution from the flares results in acid rain and respiratory problems in the surrounding community.
Mr. Chairperson, it may interest you to know that more gas is flared in Nigeria than any other place in the world. According to the World Bank, by 2002, flaring in Nigeria had contributed more green house gases to the Earths atmosphere than all other sources in sub-Saharan Africa combined.Ninety-nine per cent of associated gas is used or re-injected into the ground in Western Europe. But in Nigeria, most associated gas is flared, causing local pollution and contributing to climate change, the impacts of which are already being felt in the region with food insecurity, increasing risk of disease and the rising costs of extreme weather damage such as increase in sea levels, global temperature rise and melting of the polar ices.
Shell pipelines pass above ground through villages and over what was once agricultural land. Despite Shell's claims to the contrary, no pipeline has ever been re-routed. A case in the UK, where a pipeline required 17 different environmental surveys before construction, highlights the extent of Shell's environmental racism in Ogoni - the Ogoni have never seen anything called Environmental Impact Assessment.
The cumulative effects of all these unregulated oil exploitation had been the reduction of Ogoni to a wasteland. The Ogoni which hitherto was the food basket of the Niger Delta now imports food for its subsistence and survival.
Mr.Chairperson,I listened with rapt attention when the Commissioned Expert on this agenda Item was making her presentation and felt a sense of betrayal to our cause of common humanity when I realized that the melting of the polar ice leading to the submergence of some Island states and the increase in sea levels resulting from global temperature rise thereby flooding many communities may have actually been caused by the unregulated gas flaring going on in my country Nigeria.
In 1988, Nigeria made news when the Niger Delta community of Koko woke up to find that toxic wastes had been dumped on their land. Nearly ten years after, the Ogoni town of Taabaa woke up last month to find that a Fishing Firm had dumped acidic contaminated fish on a stretch of land in the community which has led to the death of two persons.
Mr. Chairperson, we wish to recommend as follows:
1.That the Working Group adds its voice to the call for the Nigeria government to stop all practices of gas flaring in the Niger Delta
2.That the Working Group prevails on the Nigeria government and Shell to conduct an environmental audit of Ogoni as recommended by the United Nations Fact Finding Team in 1996.
3. That a moratorium should be declared on all oil and gas industry development in Ogoni until and unless all measures have been put in place to restore degraded biodiversity and protection of future generations.
5. A well defined process of improving the socio-economic conditions of the Ogoni People is put in place by the Nigeria government as a matter of urgency. The NDDC has failed the Ogoni people.
6. A fully equipped National Oil spill Management and Response Mechanism be established
Legborsi Saro Pyagbara
International Advocacy Officer
Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP)
6 Otonahia Close (by Kia Motors), off Olu Obasanjo Road
Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria
Phone: +234 84 233907,Email:[email protected]