Ogoni remediation blues: Songs of despair or hope by Sonny Atumah

In the early days of this column, some in the name of political pundits thought it was a fifth column. It was later realized that the column was panchromatic in nature with all the colors and all the shades all the time.

Our journalism concept should be pan Nigerian, but from a global perspective. We talk up the weather by creating public conversation or mood, an atmosphere which sets expectations to make things easier and better.

It should be rooted in agenda setting and holding leaders accountable; roles the media must uphold no matter whose ox is gored. Nigerian leaders should have a Nigerian dream where everybody matters.

It should be rooted in agenda setting and holding leaders accountable; roles the media must uphold no matter whose ox is gored. Nigerian leaders should have a Nigerian dream where everybody matters.

Electioneering in Nigeria should not be just an instrument of popularity and vote gains. Potential decision makers should be made to develop interest in human health, air quality or human rights.

Ogoni is becoming an albatross around Nigeria’s neck with bitterness and despair yearning for hope and justice. The Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP drew national and international attention to the environmental degradation of Ogoniland by years of Shell’s oil exploration and production.

MOSOP led by prominent Nigerian playwright and environmental activist, Kenule Saro-Wiwa called for the boycott of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election, a move opposed by some other Ogoni people which led to the violence at Gokoo in Gokana Local Government Area. The Ogoni struggle consumed the Ogoni Four and Ogoni Nine; two groups perceived as conspiratorial adversaries that hounded each other.

Saro Wiwa could not survive the hangman’s noose in the Ogoni struggle. We have moved on with the sweet crude from the Niger Delta flowing, spilling and blighting the environment. Where our humanity is indeed if we leave Ogoni to sing the blues which are songs of despair?

Again, one tells the story of the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt who recognised that the vast natural resources of the United States were not limitless so should be managed carefully for the betterment of his people.

He also acknowledged that American citizens are the most valuable natural resources. To him protection of human health was central and valid for the conservation movement which he developed for the sustainable use and protection of natural resources.

America after Roosevelt continued with justice which is the act of applying or upholding the law. Protection of the environment and justice has therefore endured in the American dream of strong institutions that cannot be manipulated.

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Upholding environmental protection and justice, the United States Government sued BP when it claimed BP pumped millions of barrels of oil into the Deep-water Horizon of the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010. BP’s oil well cement seal failed with resultant oil spill causing what was regarded as the worst environmental disaster in the United States. American leaders claims against BP were that dolphins and whales, seabirds, fish, turtles, subsea vegetation and even sediment species were affected.

A judge ruled that BP was responsible for the release of 3.1 million barrels of oil. BP is paying a calculated US$54 billion including legal and cleanup costs, clean water Act penalty, natural resource damages, economic claims to five states of the Gulf of Mexico, 400 Local Governments claim, in what has been acclaimed the biggest pollution penalty in recorded history. The case of te Gulf of Mexico is like that of the Niger Delta.

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Would an International oil company be held liable for oil spills and made to pay for damages in Nigeria? Shell has not been made to pay for the damages in its areas of operation in the Niger Delta. Who pays the initial US$1 billion for Ogoni remediation? We have had the Ogoni conundrum that is confusing, puzzling, riddling and indeed ridiculing.

Ogoni remediation on the long run would cost over US$6 billion. Seven years of the UNEP Report on Ogoni experts suggest a rural development approach with evacuations needed to avoid the risk of cumulative exposure to contaminants.

A fortnight ago, the Minister of Environment promised at a pre-contract awarding meeting organised by Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, HYPREP in Port Harcourt that the October deadline for the actual commencement of Ogoni remediation would be achieved. Experts say there are about 2500 spill sites in the Niger Delta estimated to cost about US$50 billion in 50 years of remediation.

These environmental problems in the oil and gas producing areas of Nigeria include oil spills, including groundwater pollution, surface water pollution and damage to aquatic and shallow marine life; acid rain and air quality degradation due to gas flaring; and biodiversity loss.

The Ogoni clean-up project like the Minister explained is going to be a template for the rest of the region; a very important project to the Ogoni people, Niger Delta people, Nigerian government and Nigeria.

It requires government monitoring of the process and monitoring the funds as they are released for project implementation. Let us ventilate Khana, Gokana, Tai and Eleme Local Government Areas that make up Ogoni in Rivers State. Let us prevent a miscarriage in Ogoni remediation.