Nigeria is West Africa’s biggest producer of petroleum and the seventh largest producer in the world. Currently, the crude oil production capacity of the country from the Niger Delta stands at over 2 million barrels per day. A 2012 data shows that 38 billion barrels of crude oil still reside beneath the delta.
Antithetically, while states in the Niger Delta region bear the crude oil that is the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, government remained legalistic in addressing the issues that oil exploration has caused the region.
A report released by UNEP said the Ogoniland which is a signpost of the clean-up within the larger Niger-Delta might require world’s biggest ever clean-up that would likely take up to 30 years and recommended that both the Federal Government and the oil industry should contribute $1billion. The report, which made far-reaching recommendations, also raised local and international concerns on the environmental tragedy in the oil producing Niger-Delta.
In his opening remarks during a national summit on the Niger-Delta clean-up with the theme, “Management of contaminated environments in Nigeria for sustainable development” convened by the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (CENTRE LSD), Dr Otive Igbuzor, the centre’s executive director said the restive situation in the Niger Delta could be blamed on heinous environmental crimes and breach of good environmental management by multinational companies.
He pointed out that “over the past decades, the Niger Delta terrain has been overrun through deliberate over-exploitation carried out in total disregard of the basic principles of sustainable environmental management.”
On the extent of damage caused by the oil firms, the CENTRE LSD boss said: “From available information, there exist about 4,000 oil wells in the Niger Delta and offshore areas since 1957. These sites constitute potentially polluted sites at which drilling wastes, drill cuttings, oil sludges and various toxic hazardous chemicals have been disposed.”
“The natural consequences of the impact of the waste left behind in the wake of oil drills have drawn bad blood between the respective people (communities) on the one hand and the government and oil companies on the other. At the center of this is the environmental degradation, loss of livelihood and deprivation, and the general lack of development in the region.”
The executive director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Mallam Auwal Ibrahim Musa, on his part, lamented that not much has been done to inspire anyone, not least the affected communities, more than a year after the federal government launched the implementation of the Ogoni cleanup project in 2016.
He said the project was weighed down by all kinds of silly excuses and institutional bureaucracy, but all boiling down to lack of commitment by the government.
“However, not much has happened since then as the hopes again seemed misplaced. Perhaps the only thing of ‘value’ is that the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) has called for the expression of interest from members of the public to pre-qualify for implementation of some aspects of the cleanup exercise,” he stated.
He further noted that public health is greatly threatened by polluted drinking water and carcinogens in a number of locations, saying the Delta ecosystems like mangroves were also destroyed. He added it was found that the institutional control measures put in place both in the oil industry and government were not adequately implemented.
“If we must become a truly democratic nation, this is the time to give due recognition to Ogoni indigenes, including the playwright and environmental rights activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, who lost their lives to the battle for a fair deal for Niger Delta and we are elated that the restoration of the environment and natural livelihood of the people must begin in earnest,” he stressed.
Earlier, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo stressed the federal government’s commitment in cleaning up the contaminated Niger Delta region, saying efforts were being made to deliver on the promise of implementing the recommendations in the UNEP report on Ogoniland and the Niger Delta as a whole.
He said: “Since the inception of the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, and in line with the campaign promise, significant strides have been made towards realizing the recommendations of the UNEP report. In 2016, government revived and transferred HYPREP from the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to the Federal Ministry of Environment through an inter-ministerial consultative forum involving ministries of petroleum, Niger Delta and budget and national planning. In order to make HYPREP effective, an extensive review of the HYPREP Gazette was undertaken.”
The VP represented by the Minister of Environment, Ibrahim Usman Jibril, noted that the process of restoring the impacted sites of the Ogoniland and the other Niger Delta region to engender the socio-economic sustainability of the region was not all about just cleaning up the impacted sites, saying it involved a “consortium” of processes and activities which he said had commenced in earnest.
According to him, this is to avert the recurrence of recontamination of old and new candidate sites, even as he urged the general public to follow the government systematically to avoid undue agitations, wrong information on its current efforts and also avert recurrence of the grave contamination and its aftermath effects.
Osinbajo reiterated the determination of the administration to transform Nigeria into an industrial, agricultural, economic and environmentally sustainable giant through the provision of enabling environment for all.
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