Home Environment Environmental Groups Frowns At Reopening of Extraction In N’Delta

Environmental Groups Frowns At Reopening of Extraction In N’Delta

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Environmental Groups Frowns At Reopening of Extraction In N’Delta

By Stella Peters

Twelve environmental groups have frowned on the presidency’s decision to reopen oil extraction in Ogoniland despite the environmental and ecological impact on the land. Despite the pollution and loss of livelihoods of the last decades still being cleaned up and the UNEP recommendations not being fulfilled, it is worrying that the government will decide to resume oil extraction in Ogoniland.

The statement, which was signed by the group, reads-

“As Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria, we have keenly observed the scheming and unhindered contestations over the resumption of oil extraction in the disputed oilfields of Ogoniland. Over the last decade, we have seen Shell and the Nigerian government scheming —including resorting to court processes—to resume drilling for crude oil with its attendant environmental, social, and security recklessness in Ogoniland.”

“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 mobilized 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 that decades of oil exploitation had bequeathed to 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 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 insensitive for the government to imagine that those concerns have withered away with time. Those of us who remain connected to the
communities know 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 free, prior and informed permission. It is unclear whether any consultations have occurred with the impacted communities, or whether their rights to a safe environment and interests have been considered. We believe 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 remain an open and sour wound, begging for the healing of truth and justice. Critical to this is the fact that the moves to resume oil extraction in Ogoniland are happening against the backdrop of the contentious clean-up of polluted sites in Ogoni.

In 2012, the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) was set up to lead and coordinate 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, low quality of work, and contract racketeering, which have created peculiar difficulties in the cleanup process.

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.

We are deeply concerned about the neglect of key issues around ecological and social justice in Ogoniland. The world recognizes that the people of Ogoni have suffered unprecedented pains and losses on account of oil extraction. 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 oil extraction can commence while these issues remain on the front burner is to be naïve at best and cruel at worst.

Flowing from the foregoing, we recommend that the government stop any planned attempt to resume oil activities in Ogoniland. Instead, it should concentrate on redeeming the ecological disaster in the area, decommissioning aged oil infrastructure, replacing the people’s lost livelihoods, and securing justice for the countless Ogonis waiting for closure.

This statement is signed and endorsed by;

1. Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF)
2. We the People
3. Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA)
4. African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD)
5. Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ)
6. Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)
7. Policy alert
8. Kabetkeche Women Development and Resource Centre
9. Peoples Advancement Centre
10. Peace Point Development Foundation
11. Nkori Rural Women Development Initiative
12. Miideekor Environmental Development Initiative (MEDI)

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