Written by Lillian Akhigbe, Communications Officer, Social Action
As the global environmental justice movement commemorates the state execution of writer and activist, Ken Saro Wiwa and 8 other Ogoni environmental and social justice campaigners who were killed on November 10, 1995, the Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action) has today released a new report,STILL POLLUTED: Monitoring Government and Shell’s Response to UNEP’s Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland. The report is a product of two years monitoring of the effort of the Nigerian government and oil companies to address the remediation of the environmentally-devastated Ogoniland through the implementation of the concrete recommendations in the report by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).
The report by Social Action reveals that the response of the Nigerian government has fallen far short of expectations, in view of its responsibility to safeguard the environment, as enshrined in Section 20 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.
“Everything on the ground in Ogoniland points to complete irresponsibility on the part of the Nigerian government”, according to Dr. Isaac Osuoka, Executive Director of Social Action. “The government set up the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) under the office of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, a complicit party in the pollution of Ogoniland. The agency was not backed by legislation nor provided with the required funding. Government must get serious and commence real actions to clean up Ogoniland, which should serve as a template for replication in the clean-up of other hydrocarbon-polluted communities in Nigeria’s Niger Delta”, he added.
According to Social Action’s report, neither the agency nor the government have done anything worthwhile to restore the Ogoni environment, three years after the UNEP report was released. Even emergency measures such as the provision of alternative sources of drinking water have not been taken seriously by the government. Ogoni community members continue to drink from badly contaminated water wells and bathe in badly polluted streams.
Ken Saro Wiwa and the Ogoni 8, were part of a Movement against the continuous oil pollution by Shell and neglect by the Nigerian government. Community protests ultimately led to the exit of Shell from Ogoniland in 1993. Two years thereafter, Ken Saro Wiwa and the Ogoni 8 were executed by the State during the military administration of the late Gen. Sani Abacha. But Shell was never able to return to Ogoniland despite several attempts made, as Ogoni people, inspired by the patriotism of their hero, Ken Saro Wiwa, resisted through popular protests, every move made by Shell to resume oil activities in Ogoniland.
However, Shell’s oil pipelines through which crude oil is conveyed from the region to the Port for export to other countries, still remain in Ogoniland till date. Oil spills from these pipelines occur regularly and the environment has suffered decades of environmental degradation.
The federal government of Nigeria in 2008 invited UNEP to carry out an assessment of the pollution in Ogoniland. UNEP released its report on Ogoni environment on August 4, 2011. The UNEP Report contained major revelations and recommendations needed to be attended to by clean-up and environmental remediation exercises.
An electronic version of Social Action’s STILL POLLUTED: Monitoring Government and Shell’s Response to UNEP’s Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland is available here