Ogoniland: Will there ever be a Total Restoration.

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The Problem Statement

The first thing that hits you is the stink of oil – crude oil that fills the air, between 1976 and 1991, over two million barrels of oil-polluted Ogoniland in 2,976 separate oil spills, while oil production has ceased, pipelines operated by shell still traverse the land, creeks, and waterways. Leaks caused by corroded pipelines as well as bandits mean that the area is still plagued with the oil spill. In 2011, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released a damming environmental assessment of  Ogoniland exposing extensive oil pollution and serving health risks including polluted drinking water, no access to fishing for food and source of survival and livelihood. The community has tried every possible avenue in its search for justice, including local, national and international courts and political institutions, which they have to hold to account those major companies that drill from the rich mineral resources that have turned into a disaster. The community has witnessed the gradual decline of their natural environment and the loss of local people’s food.

 

The Policy Solution

Shell has accepted responsibility for cleaning up hundreds of its old spills in a small oil-rich delta region near Port Harcourt, but the spokesman said: The money will be made available when we are sure that the structures are in place, are robust and will be overseen correctly. It is very much the responsibility of the Nigerian Government to sit up and assist in ensuring an effective and efficient cleaning exercise to help the people living in the region.

 

NIGAC Constructive Position/Take

So, a lack of funds is not an issue here. What seems to be playing out is the effect of the system and the poor commitment of some individuals to consistently and persistently work on the project mainly from the side of the Government to sit up. This should stop henceforth. The state government should not wait for the visit of the minister or other officials before starting the cleanup work. A system should be in place to ensure that all the participants are kept on their toes. Huge sums of funds are involved in the project. The exercise should not be one for patronage release to friends with self-centered benefits. Most state officials are notorious for turning such projects into a honey pot for self-help.

This must not be. Rather, the highest standards of integrity should always be maintained. The NGOs and other stakeholders whose persistent effort brought attention to the Ogoni disaster should not go to sleep. MOSOP and other stakeholders should continue to play a watchdog role till there is a total restoration of the Ogoniland.

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