CAPPA – Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa

Why govt should put on hold resumption of oil exploration in Ogoniland – Groups

Concerned about what it considers as the neglect of key issues around ecological and social justice amid plans to resume oil exploration activities in Ogoniland, a team of environment activists has called on the Nigerian Government to suspend any such intention.

Fishermen Niger Delta
Fishermen sort out their fishing net at the bank of a polluted river in Bidere community in Ogoni land in the Niger Delta region. Photo credit: REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

In a statement made available to EnviroNews on Monday, May 20, 2024, the team of 12 civil society groups submitted that the government should rather concentrate on redeeming the ecological disaster in the area, decommissioning aged oil infrastructure, replacing the lost livelihood of the people and securing justice for the countless Ogonis waiting for closure.

Lamenting that the people of Ogoni have suffered unprecedented pains and loses on account of oil extraction, the activists regretted that no apology has been rendered for the destruction of their environment, the killing of their people, the loss of their livelihoods, the destruction of their villages, the forced exile of their people and the murder of their leaders.

“To assume that the extraction of oil can commence whilst these issues remain on the front burner, is to be naïve at best and cruel at worse,” declared the campaigners.

They frowned at the government’s decision to resume oil extraction in Ogoniland when the pollution of the last decades is yet to be cleaned and the recommendations of UNEP are yet to be fully complied with.

“How does one explain the fact that a site supposedly being cleaned up will resume full oil extraction activities with all the pollution that comes with it?” they demanded, adding:

“For the avoidance of doubt, it should be noted that the Niger Delta as a whole has become the epicentre for hydrocarbon pollution in need of immediate remediation. The environmental assessment of Ogoniland report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the May 2023 Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission (BSOEC) report both demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt the scale of destruction and the true costs of extracting oil and gas.”

The statement reads further: “In 1993, Shell was forced out of Ogoniland where it had extracted crude oil non-stop for decades with unbelievable ecological consequences. The Ogoni people, mobilised under the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), had issued a set of demands in the Ogoni Bill of Rights in 1990 which included calls to the Nigerian government to clean up the Ogoni environment and restore the livelihoods of the indigenous people.

“MOSOP had called the attention of the world to the poverty, neglect and environmental destruction which decades of oil exploitation had bequeathed on the Ogoni people. MOSOP demanded fairer benefits to the Ogoni people from oil wealth, as well as remediation and compensation for the ecological damage caused by the reckless activities of oil companies.

“The government had responded to this genuine concern with widespread militarisation of Ogoniland and the Niger Delta region, mass killings, arson and the eventual execution of environmental rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni leaders in 1995 after the recommendations of a stage-managed trial.

“As civil society organisations in Nigeria, we have keenly observed the scheming and unhindered contestations over the resumption of extraction of oil in the disputed oilfields of Ogoniland. Over the last decade, we have seen scheming by Shell and the Nigeria government – including resort to court processes – to resume drilling for crude oil with its attendant environmental, social and security recklessness in Ogoniland.

“The latest contestation follows the visit of some Ogonis to President Bola Tinubu ostensibly with the mandate of the Ogoni people to negotiate the resumption of oil extraction in the area.

“It is deeply concerning that 33 years after the Ogonis made their demands contained in the Ogoni Bill of Rights for which they were so brutally suppressed, none of their concerns and prayers have been conclusively addressed. It is disappointing and demonstrates insensitivity for the government to imagine that those concerns have simply withered away with time. Those of us who remain connected to the communities know for a fact that the Ogoni people remain resolute in their resistance to any renewed hydrocarbon extraction in their domains.

“It is particularly disappointing to see that, in the fight over OML 11 and the resumption of oil extraction in Ogoniland, there has been no mention or discussion of getting the indigenous Ogoni people’s free, prior, and informed permission. It is unclear whether any consultations have taken place with the impacted communities, or whether their rights to a safe environment and interests have been considered. We believe that these recent attempts are callous, ill-advised, and capable of inciting suspicion and conflict in an already tense and conflict-prone area.

“It is also gravely disconcerting that in the ongoing frenzy, the concerns raised by the Ogoni people 33 years ago which led to the termination of oil extraction have not been addressed. Similarly, there has been no attempt to secure justice for the countless families that lost lives, livelihoods and properties in what is still the worst attack on a peaceful indigenous population by Nigerian security forces. Persons who committed acts of genocide and abuses against unarmed populations, and boasted publicly about it, have still not been brought to justice. For the majority of Ogonis, the events of the 1990s remains an open and sour wound, begging for the healing of truth and justice.

“Critical to this is the fact that the moves to resume the extraction of oil in Ogoniland is happening against the backdrop of the contentious clean-up of polluted sites in Ogoni. In 2012, Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) was setup to lead and co-ordinate the activities needed to implement the recommendations of the UNEP report on oil contamination in Ogoniland, including cleanup activities. The cleanup has been marred by concerns of irregularities, and in many instances low quality of job done and contract racketeering. These have created peculiar difficulties in the cleanup process.”

The statement was endorsed by Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), We the People (WTP), Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD), Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Policy Alert, Kabetkeche Women Development and Resource Centre, Peoples Advancement Centre, Peace Point Development Foundation, Nkori Rural Women Development Initiative, and Miideekor Environmental Development Initiative (MEDI).

Source: Enviro News

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