Yours truly was on ground to access first-hand the level of damage done to the Ogoni Land as the Federal Government of Nigeria under the supervision of the Hydo Carbon Pollution Remediation Project ( Hyprep) is set to begin actual remediation exercise on affected LOTS.
It is imperative to highlight here that until one visits these sites, it maybe very difficult to comprehend and appreciate the level of degradation that has rendered the once very fertile Land of Ogoni into a fruitless mass of earth debris.
The severe nature of this degradation has created complex environmental, economical and health related issues to the Ogoni people who are also battling with low presence of government and necessary infrastructure.
The Ogoni people have been victims of human rights violations for many years. In 1956, four years before Nigerian Independence, Royal Dutch/Shell , in collaboration with the British government, found a commercially viable oil field on the Niger Delta and began oil production in 1958. In a 15-year period from 1976 to 1991 there were reportedly 2,976 oil spills of about 2.1 million barrels of oil in Ogoniland, accounting for about 40% of the total oil spills of the Royal Dutch/Shell company worldwide.
However, this statistics appears shocking, the existing evidence on site even till date corroborate the findings of the UNEP Team.
In 2011, over 200 locations were accessed in Ogoniland by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP ), This study was the first systematic investigation of the oil contamination in Ogoniland. It was part of a comprehensive UNEP-led investigation to assess the environmental conditions in this part of the Niger Delta.
The study showed extensive oil contamination of rivers, creeks, and ground waters. The oil originates from spills in connection with sabotage of oil infrastructures, spills in connection with transport of stolen oil, and leaks from aging and/or abandoned infrastructure. The spills have caused extensive damage to the mangroves, where large areas of the vegetation have died.
The study also discovered that impacts of the 50 years of oil production in the region extended deeper than previously thought. Because of oil spills, oil flaring, and waste discharge, the alluvial soil of the Ogoni Land is no longer viable for agriculture which is the primary occupation of the locals.
Furthermore, in many areas that seemed to be unaffected, groundwater was found to have high levels of hydrocarbons or were contaminated with benzene, a
carcinogen, at 900 levels above WHO guidelines.
UNEP estimated that it could take up to 30 years to rehabilitate Ogoniland to its full potential and that the first five years of rehabilitation would require funding of about US$1 billion.
From Kono, to K-Dere, to Ebubu, Korokoro, Buemene, Nweekol, to Wiieborsi, Saanako and Kpor etc, the story remains unchanged and sad.
A visit to the impacted sites will make one appreciate the Economical and Political agitation of the Ogoni Ethnic Nationality, for a Land this blessed shouldn’t be any where close to the sorry state it has found itself today.
Few has however accused the present Federal Government led by President Buhari of playing Politics with the cleanup, while many has also applauded the Federal Government for this bold action.
But been apolitical, it is my sincere opinion that the Federal Government should be commended and applauded for kick starting the remediation process, for if remediating Ogoni Land is about scoring Political Points, then the Government should be scored very high in understanding politics as a tool for Social Engineering and Development.
With the commencement of the Remediation Process, one will conclude that the ultimate sacrifices of the late Right Activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa and others weren’t in vain, For Ogoni Land will soon breathe a sight of relief.
Finally, as a scholar of Environmental Valuation whose interest also borders on Compensation, my curiosity wouldn’t allow me to avoid this critical question, which is ” HAS ADEQUATE COMPENSATION BEEN PAID TO THE OWNERS OF THE AFFECTED LANDS”?
This and many more questions will surely arise as the contractors get set to begin the remediation process proper.