By Tina A. Hassan

More than two years after the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) released a damning report of the destruction to the ecosystem in Ogoni land by years of unchecked oil spillage through activities of multi-national oil companies operating in the area, Weekly Trust reports that the Federal Government is still foot-dragging with the implementation of the remedial actions contained in the UNEP report.

A report released by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in 2011, detailed records of oil spills in Ogoni land. It also revealed the extent of devastation caused by more than fifty years of unchecked oil spills on the environment and human lives with little or no effort to clean up the environment.

More than two years now, the Federal government is still foot-dragging on the implementation of the said report despite the series of assurances it gave to the effect that the report would not be swept under the rug when it was first released on August 4th, 2011.

Weekly Trust findings unveils that a Presidential committee set up to effect the immediate implementation of the report, especially on areas of environmental clean- up or remedying the damages done to the ecosystem as well as halt the continued loss of human lives in the region has remained comatose. Apart from the emergency water supplied to some communities by the Presidential committee in the wake of its formation, nothing concrete has been done concerning the UNEP report up to this moment.

However, the released UNEP report spurred immediate reactions in several quarters, mainly from concerned groups and individuals. They insisted that the Federal Government (FG) should make sure all those implicated in the report, especially the multinational oil companies are actively involved in order to guarantee full implementation of the recommendations of the report.

In addition, the report categorically revealed that the restoration of the negative impacts on mangrove stands and swamp lands will take up to 30 years, adding that families are suffering due to the loss of means of livelihood, mainly fishing and agriculture.

Parts of the report, which covered a period of one year, read; “Some areas, which appear unaffected at the surface, are in reality severely contaminated underground and action to protect human health and reduce the risks to affected communities should occur without delay”

Again, a major new independent scientific assessment, carried out by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), indicated that pollution from over 50 years of oil operations in the region has penetrated further and deeper than it appears on the surface.

For the period of over a 14 months, the UNEP team examined more than 200 locations, surveyed 122 kilometres of pipeline rights of way, reviewed more than 5,000 medical records and engaged over 23,000 people at local community meetings level.

Furthermore, detailed soil and groundwater contamination investigations were conducted at 69 sites, which ranged in size from 1,300 square meters in Barabeedom-K.dere, Gokana LGA to 79 hectares in Ajeokpori-Akpajo, in Eleme LGA.

Altogether more than 4,000 samples were analyzed, including water taken from 142 groundwater monitoring wells drilled specifically for the study and soil extracted from 780 boreholes.

Last year, Amnesty International demanded that oil giant Shell, should pay an initial sum of $1 billion (about N154, 000,000,000) to clean up and remedy the damaged done to the ecosystems in the Delta region due to oil spillage from its facility as recommended by the UNEP.

Speaking at a media briefing organized by the agency in collaboration with Center for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD), the duo agreed that the true tragedy of the people of Ogoni land is the failure and delays in tackling oil spills in the region.

Aster Van Kregten, Amnesty International Researcher for Nigeria said Shell which posted profits of $7.2 billion between July and September before the briefing, should as a sign of seriousness pay the initial amount to set up a fund for the clean-up.

Using the example of Bodo village in Gokana area of Ogoni, she said two consecutive spills were not stopped for about eight weeks thereby devastating the environment and livelihood of the people due to Shell’s inaction, this she said continues to this day.

According to her, the degree of devastation done to the environment and Bodo community of Gokana in Ogoni land is one of many such incidences and the Nigerian government has failed to ensure compliance with its laws by the company.

“Bodo is a disaster that should not have happened, yet it is one that due to Shell’s inaction has continued to this day. The situation in Bodo is symptomic of the wider situation in the Niger Delta oil industry. The authorities simply do not control the oil companies. Shell and other oil companies have the freedom to act or not to act,” she laments.

Dr. Nenibarini Zabby of CEHRD said the action of shell is unacceptable and they must take responsibility for it.

He added that the report is gradually being forgotten, but people are living in the affected regions, saying this is not only going to affect the region alone, but its impact would tickle down to other parts of the country in terms of mass movement to seek for better conditions of living, destruction of the ecosystem, air pollution and other such negative impacts.

With the discovery of oil in more states like Kogi, Anambra, Kwara, Sokoto and maybe others, the fear of a total destruction of the ecosystem may turn to reality especially when oil spills and damages done by such spills are not cleaned up.

In his article title Nnimmo Bassey ‘Two Years After the UNEP Report, Ogoni Still Groans, he said Nigeria’s oil rich region once supported productive farming, fishing and related activities.

He continued “till this moment, the oilrigs began to puncture holes in the land and crude oil began to be spilled on lands, forests and rivers. The air was clean, but that changed when gas flares belched like dragons out for the kill. Today, twenty years after Shell got excommunicated from Ogoni, thick hydrocarbon fumes from sundry pollutions hang in the air.”

Bassey further decried that despite the messy condition as disclosed by the report without exception and pollution of all the water bodies in Ogoni by the activities of oil companies – Shell Petroleum Development Company (Shell) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC); it is still not given the required attention by the government.

Indeed, the report stated that some of what the people drink as potable water had carcinogens, such as benzene, up to 900 times above World Health Organization standards. The report also revealed that at some places in Ogoni land, the soil is polluted with hydrocarbons to a depth of five (5) meters.

First published by Daily Trust.