Social Action has been following closely developments in Ogoniland with the publishing of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on the oil pollution and the progress made by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP). The cleanup recommended in the UNEP report has suffered several setbacks as a result of political lethargy, bureaucratic bottlenecks, opacity in the operation of the council and the lack of political will to put in motion the appropriate mechanisms to bring a lasting solution to the degradation in Ogoniland as a result of the massive oil pollution. Several activities have been carried out by Social Action to ensure the cleanup exercise is carried out the recommendations of UNEP and in such a way that the people are not shortchanged and that the clean-up of Ogoni represents a test case for the clean-up of the Niger Delta and the entire Nigerian environment.
One such activity is the town hall meeting organised in Port Harcourt to bring together stakeholders from the affected communities in Ogoniland, civil society, government agencies including HYPREP. The purpose was to re-engage the process to produce a plan of action that would make concrete input into the procedure under CSOs/communities’ increased participation around what HYPREP was already doing. The town hall meeting which took place in Port Harcourt on July 31, 2019 resulted in the issuance of a communique with a far-reaching plan of action and recommendations. Some of the recommendation and resolutions include
- the collaboration of stakeholders with HYPREP for the agency to succeed in the Ogoni clean-up
- inclusion of the women as critical stakeholders in the cleanup, considering that Ogoni women depend much on the environment (especially land and water) for sustaining livelihoods (and right to life imperatives) across grassroots experiences.
- a periodic review of the clean-up process among stakeholders as transparency and accountability measures towards building public confidence over the HYPREP course of action
The communique also observed that the absence of an implementing plan on the UNEP report has precipitated much of the delay that generated confusion about communities’ expectations and what HYPREP has been doing all along. The communique, therefore recommended that due diligence be observed in the cleanup processes noting that if the pilot Ogoni Clean-up succeeds, then the effort to rehabilitate the Niger delta environmentally, can hopefully succeed.
After two decades of civil rule in Nigeria, over one thousand representatives of impacted communities, citizens groups, universities and national and sub-national agencies participated in the Nigeria Resource Justice Conference, which held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on 2nd May 2019. Organised by the Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action), the Conference provided a platform for participants to examine the situation of communities in the sites of oil and gas production and to set policy agendas to tackle current challenges.
As part of activities to mark the 23rd anniversary of the killing of nine Ogoni leaders, Social Action’s Community Advocacy Centre in Bori on 10th November 2018 organised a lecture and sensitisation program on oil pollution in Ogoniland.
Meet Patience, Chief Sunday and their community, forced to flee their homes in Nigeria, from Bue-Leh to Bori.
Social Action joined other citizens groups in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on 19th April 2018 in peaceful Streets Walk Campaign against soot pollution in the city and other areas of the state. The black soot which has since 2016 polluted the city, the capital of Nigeria’s petroleum industry, is believed to result from incomplete combustion of hydrocarbon and related materials. While government agencies have failed to act against the pollution, residents believe that the pollution originates from asphalt companies, refineries and illegal artisanal refinery operators. In particular, the indiscriminate burning of confiscated vessels of crude oil thieves and destruction of illegal refineries by soldiers in the military Joint Task Force (JTF) contribute to air and water pollution. The protestors called for increased and transparent action by the authorities to stop the pollution.
Social Action’s monitoring of Ogoni communities in the Gokana, Tai, Eleme and Khana Local Government Areas in Rivers State in first quarter 2018 revealed that the actual clean-up of polluted sites has not yet started. The delay is continuing seven years after the release of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Report on the Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland, and two years after the flag-off of the clean-up by the federal government in 2016. Our monitoring in Ogoniland also shows that the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), an agency set up by the Federal Government for cleanup is yet to award contracts for the implementation of emergency measures since the advertisement for the expression of interest by qualified companies in 2017. Thus, the Ogoni people are still without clean drinking water, health audit and other emergency measures recommended by UNEP in 2011.
Citizen groups and representatives of petroleum-bearing community have raised concerns about the inherent gaps and dangers of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), which has been passed by both houses of the National Assembly. As the Bill is fraught with defects in the areas of environmental protection, industry-standard regulation and preservation of the rights, health and livelihoods of local community members, the groups urged President Muhammed Buhari not to sign the PIGB, until the problematic areas were addressed.
By Ndidi P. Anih and Fyneface D. Fyneface
The descriptive name of the scheme, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) hides issues such as whether women were involved in the initial decision making on whether or not the scheme should be implemented in their villages, especially in Cross Rivers State, Nigeria. Here, most women indicated that they did not know about these matters. For those who did know, they said they were not invited to meetings when those decisions were made.