Declare state of emergency in Ogoniland, activists urge government


Environmental activists have called on the government to declare state of emergency in Ogoniland and the entire Niger Delta in view of the mammoth environmental challenges inflicted on the region.

Besides, they urged the government to commence the clean-up of the region immediately without further delay.

Executive Director, Environmental Right Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Godwin Ojo, disclosed at a one-day advocacy meeting to mark the fifth-year anniversary of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Assessment Report on Ogoniland on August 4, 2016, in Port Harcourt that despite the announcement of the supposed take-off of the clean-up exercise and a $10 million take-off grants in 2015, the institutional framework is still not in place to give hope to the Ogoni people that anything tangible will come out of the process.

The participants brainstormed on the theme: Monitoring Agenda for the Implementation of the UNEP report cleanup of Ogoniland, and discussed new developments on the implementation of the report, including the announcement and inauguration of a 13-member governing council and board of trustees to oversee the take off of the actual clean up exercise by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.

They observed that though the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has shown a positive attitude towards implementing the UNEP report by inaugurating a Governing Council and Board of Trustees, the absence of a gazette or law to ensure the process is institutionalized and sustained beyond the Buhari administration is not in place.

A communiqués issued at the end of the day-long meeting read in part, “There is still legitimate outrage among Ogoni on the inclusion of the same polluting oil companies in the Governing Council and Board of Trustees of the UNEP report implementation. Shell sitting comfortably on the Governing Council and steering Board set up by the government to oversee the clean- up is an anomaly.

“Shell is orchestrating a strategy of hijacking the cleanup process in its attempts to evade justice and undermining the cleanup process.

“Since the publicized approval of the $10 million take-off grant which is a paltry sum for start up compared to the UNEP recommended $1 billion for clean up of Ogoniland made by President Buhari in August 2015 there has been no information in the public on how the fund will be expended, or how oil companies are to fund the clean up exercise.

“There is still no work plan or timelines for deliverables in the UNEP report implementation process.

“Civil society representation in the composition of the Governing Council and Board of Trustees in the UNEP report implementation is virtually nil and would make monitoring of implementation near absent.

“Despite the current administration mantra of diversification from a monoculture economy solely reliant on fossil fuels, it still relies heavily on fossil fuel to the detriment of proven alternatives that are clean and sustainable,”

The gathering which comprises of Ogoni and other communities in the Niger Delta, civil society layers, community campaigners, the academia, and the media among others also made the following recommendations:

  • We strongly recommend the release of the gazette of the UNEP report implementation to ensure sustainability beyond the present administration since the cleanup will take 30 years to complete from the take-off date of commencement
  •  Shell must be removed from the Governing Council of the UNEP clean up exercise to ensure no conflict of interest in the work of the Governing Council and Board of Trustees
  • Need for unity among the Ogoni people to ensure the process of cleanup of Ogoniland is not stalled
  • The cleanup of Ogoniland should be the entry point of the cleanup of the entire  Niger Delta.
  • Adequate awareness creation on the cleanup process to address the concerns of the Ogoni and the generality of Nigerians interested in ensuring the current processes work.
  • Adequate civil society representation in the Governing Council and BOT of the implementing committee.
  • An independent monitoring system be set up with representatives of the Ogoni and civil society playing prominent and active roles.
  • Nigerian government should wean itself of fossil fuels dependency and halt all forms of pollution by the oil industry in the Niger Delta by enforcing the deadline for the cessation of gas flaring and exploring safe renewables.