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Posts tagged ‘Nnimmo Bassey’

Lagos : Gleaming New City For The Wealthy Leaves Historic City In Dust.

Jan. 21 (GIN) – As developers rush to complete a dream city of soaring glass and steel high-rise buildings, luxury housing for 250,000 amidst a leafy boulevard with ritzy shops and tony restaurants, hopes for a better future are growing dim for the sister city of Lagos, the largest city in Africa with 21 million residents at last count.

Eko Atlantic, the new project, is rising on Victoria Island – now connected by an artificial land bridge to Lagos which sinks deeper into poverty as its neighbor’s income skyrockets.

Lagos, visited by the Portuguese in 1492, was the nation’s capital from 1914 to 1991. Today it struggles with aging infrastructure, unreliable electric power, fierce traffic jams and sprawling slums. Even in posh neighborhoods, sewage bubbles up from open ditches. Companies squeeze their headquarters into moldy midcentury ranch houses and turn off the lights at lunch to rest electric generators.

Two-thirds of the city’s residents live in “informal” neighborhoods, while more than one million of the city’s poor have been forcibly evicted from their homes over the last 15 years.

Eko Atlantic is a prime example of a trend towards walled-off cities for the very rich on a continent that is still home to the world’s poorest.

Writing in The Guardian newspaper, Martin Lukacs warned: “Eko Atlantic is where you can begin to see a possible future – privatized green enclaves for the ultra rich ringed by slums lacking water or electricity, in which a surplus population scramble for depleting resources and shelter to fend off the coming floods and storms.”

He continued: “Protected by guards, guns, and sky-high real estate prices, the rich will shield themselves from the rising tides of poverty and a sea that is literally rising… This is climate apartheid.”

Nigerian environmental activist Nnimmo Bassey added: “Building Eko Atlantic is contrary to anything one would want to do if one took seriously climate change and resource depletion.”

The developers, a pair of politically connected Lebanese brothers who run a financial empire called the Chagoury Group, received a 78 year-seal of ownership of Eko Atlantic to recoup their investment.

The Clinton Global Initiative, meanwhile, calls Eko Atlantic “one of the most inspiring and ambitious civil engineering projects in Africa,” according to the U.S. mission in Nigeria website.  Last year, former President Clinton participated in the ground breaking ceremony as did Ambassador Terence McCulley, and Consul General Jeff Hawkins, among others.

Woman To Lead Embattled Central African Republic As New President

Jan. 21 (GIN) – To the sound of cheers from the National Assembly building, the Transitional National Council of the Central African Republic on Monday tapped Catherine Samba-Panza, mayor of the capital city of Bangui, to be the country’s interim President and first woman to hold the post.

As the new leader of a country gripped by a ferocious sectarian war, Catherine Samba-Panza, 58, issued a call to the fighting groups, asking her “children, especially the anti-Balaka, to put down their arms and stop all the fighting. The same goes for the ex-Seleka. . . I don’t want to hear any more talk of murders and killings.

“Starting today, I am the president of all Central Africans, without exclusion.”

Born in Chad to a Cameroonian father and Central African mother, Ms. Samba-Panza is a former businesswoman, corporate lawyer, and insurance broker.  She also led a reconciliation effort during a previous civil war.

Paul Simon Handy, of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in South Africa, called her “a president who can unite both the country and the political elite” but warned: “I am afraid that this process will take longer than her period in office as interim president.”

The Central African Republic has been devastated by brutal fighting since a coup in March 2013 removed the unpopular president Francois Bozize. He was replaced by Michel Djotodia who suspended the constitution. Djotodia resigned this month under intense international pressure as the death toll mounted to over 1000 people and observers feared a genocide was in the works.

According to a New York Times report, “The state no longer exists in the CAR. Civil servants do not go to their offices, taxes are not collected, all the schools are closed. There is no budget, no army, no police force, no Parliament, no judges, no jails.”

Against these odds, Samba-Panza, no political novice, ran a successful campaign and beat seven other candidates for the post. Among them were two women and two sons of former presidents.

Now, her primary task will be to prepare the nation for elections in the coming year.  In addition she will need to temper the extreme animosity between the Christian and Muslim groups in the country.

Central African Republic has to hold a fresh election by February 2015 at the latest. France, however, wants the election to be held this year. Current law excludes the interim president from running.

“Everything we have been through has been the fault of men,” said Marie-Louise Yakemba, in a press interview. Yakemba, who heads a civil-society organization that brings together people of different faiths, added: “We think that with a woman, there is at least a ray of hope.”w/pix of Pres. Samba-Panza

Africa Was A Point Of Pride For Martin Luther King Jr.
By Rush Perez

Jan. 21 (GIN) – At a speaking engagement at Western Michigan University on Dec. 18, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. recalled his first trip to Africa with his wife Coretta to attend the independence day celebration of the new nation of Ghana. The couple was invited by the new President, Kwame Nkrumah.

“We were very happy about the fact there were now eight independent countries in Africa,” he said. “But since that night in March, 1957, some twenty-seven new independent nations have come into being in Africa. This reveals to us that the old order of colonialism is passing away, and the new order of freedom and human dignity is coming into being.”

Later, on Dec. 10, 1965 he gave a powerful speech at Hunter College in New York City, where he attacked the Apartheid regime of South Africa, as well as the governments of Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe) and the Portuguese control of Mozambique and Angola.

True to form, Dr King utilized powerful language to make his points, beginning first with a deconstruction of the popular narrative of Africa at the time.

“Africa has been depicted for more than a century as the home of black cannibals and ignorant primitives….Africa does have spectacular savages today, but they are not black. They are the sophisticated white rulers of South Africa… whose conduct and philosophy stamp them unmistakably as modern day barbarians.”

He went on to call for an international boycott of South Africa.

After the independence day ceremonies in Ghana, Dr King said in a radio interview that: “This event, the birth of this new nation, will give impetus to oppressed peoples all over the world. I think it will have worldwide implications and repercussions–not only for Asia and Africa, but also for America….It renews my conviction in the ultimate triumph of justice and that somehow the universe itself is on the side of freedom and justice. So that this gives new hope to me in the struggle for freedom.”


Jan. 21 (GIN) – An accomplished and much-admired news writer from Ghana was recalled as “the face and voice of Africa – a new young, enterprising, international connected, ambitious Africa, with a can-do attitude.”

Komla Afeke Dumor passed unexpectedly this week at age 41 from cardiac arrest at his London home.

“He was not a praise-singer,” noted BBC Africa editor Solomon Mugera. “He was determined to present a balanced story, warts and all, and to show the human face behind the headlines.”

Dumor was a BBC World News presenter and the host of the Focus on Africa Program. He joined the BBC in 2006 after working for a decade as a journalist in Ghana. He was so popular in his home country that many Ghanaians changed their profiles on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to show a picture of him.

After moving to TV in 2009, he anchored live coverage of major events including the funeral of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il,  the wedding of Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton, and the death of Nelson Mandela in December.

Born in 1972 in Accra, Komla Dumor received graduate degrees from the University of Ghana and Harvard University.

Even as a number of African countries were being heralded as among the world’s fastest-growing economies, Dumor wanted to dig deeper, recalled Mugera.

“He knew that a select few were wining and dining in five-star hotels and driving the latest luxury cars, while in the same neighborhood there were families struggling to live on $1 a day.”

The Media Foundation for West Africa, a regional independent, non-governmental organisation based in Accra, shared their deep condolences for the loss of “one of Africa’s best journalists.”

“Komla raised the standard of journalism in Africa, and brought a lot of pride to many Ghanaians and Africans when he joined the BBC Africa Service and later, the World Service…  He was an an illustrious journalist and a trailblazer for many young journalists in Ghana and Africa as a whole. .. We have indeed lost a talented gem in journalism, Komla, damirifa due! Rest in peace!” the statement concluded.

In the words of Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie:  “We have lost a star. Go well my discussant brother.”

Dumor leaves a wife, Kwansema Dumor, and three children. w/pix of K. Dumor

Nnimmo Faults “HYPREP”, Call For Its Scrapping.


By Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface

The Executive Director of Health of Mother Health Foundation (HOMEF), and Right Livelihood Award Foundation Laureate, Rev. Nnimmo Bassey has faulted the naming of the environmental clean-up agency “Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Programme (HYPREP)” and called for its scrapping.

The environmentalist made the condemnation during a visit to Goi community in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State on Tuesday, November 26, 2013 to see what has changed since the creation of HYPREP to clean up the Niger Delta.

Speaking to journalists in Goi, Rev. Bassey wondered why a programme that was designed to clean hydrocarbon from the environment would be named “Hydrocarbon pollution Restoration…” asking whether the agency was meant to restore hydrocarbon to the environment or remove from it. The Laureate however, blamed the naming error on the hastiness through wish the programme was created of which there was no time to think thoroughly.

“The name “Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Programme (HYPREP) is wrong. This means to restore hydrocarbon into the environment and not to clean up. They were in a hurry to create the body that is why they did not bother to think well about the name before making it public.” Nnimmo said.

The environmentalist and Right Livelihood Award Foundation Laureate then called for the scrapping of HYPREP and replacing it with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recommended Ogoni Environmental Restoration Agency to Clean-Up the over 2,000 oil impacted areas in Ogoniland.

Rev. Nnimmo also said HYPREP should be scrapped because, “it is not the main agency, no transparency in its processes and has no road map”. Adding that, such agency as part of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources that is culpable in the pollution of Ogoni land and the Niger Delta cannot handle the Clean-Up of the area as “they cannot be a judge in their own case”.


Two Years After The UNEP Report: Ogoni Groans On By Nnimmo Bassey

Two whole years after the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) issued a damning assessment of the Ogoni environment, the Ogoni people are forced to continue wallowing in the toxic broth that their lands and waters have been made to become. Ogoniland was once a land that supported productive farming, fishing and related activities.  That was so up till the 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.

From the late 1980s, the Ogoni people raised alarm over the wholesale destruction of their environment. They followed this by careful and robustly peaceful organising. With the Ogoni Bill of Rights of 1990 they catalogued their demands for environmental, socio-economic and political justice. Although the Bill of Rights was presented to the Nigerian government till date there has not been a whisper by way of response to, or engagement with, the document.

The Bill of Rights became an organising document for the Ogoni people and also eventually inspired other ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta to produce similar charters as a peaceful way of prodding the government into dialogue and action. The Bill noted that although crude oil had been extracted from Ogoniland from 1958 they had received NOTHING in return. We reproduce articles 15-18 of the Bill to illustrate some of the complaints of the people:

15. That the search for oil has caused severe land and food shortages in Ogoni – one of the most densely populated areas of Africa (average: 1,500 per square mile; national average: 300 per square mile.)

16. That neglectful environmental pollution laws and sub-standard inspection techniques of the Federal authorities have led to the complete degradation of the Ogoni environment, turning our homeland into an ecological disaster.

17. That the Ogoni people lack education, health and other social facilities.

18. That it is intolerable that one of the richest areas of Nigeria should wallow in abject poverty and destitution.

This Bill of Rights was the precursor to the Kaiama Declaration of the Ijaws, Ogoni Bill of Rights, lkwerre Rescue Charter, Aklaka Declaration for the Egi, the Urhobo Economic Summit Resolution, Oron Bill of Rights and other demands of peoples’ organisations in the Niger Delta.

The UNEP report of presented to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on 4 August 2011 completely confirmed the claims of the Ogoni people “That neglectful environmental pollution laws and sub-standard inspection techniques of the Federal authorities have led to the complete degradation of the Ogoni environment, turning our homeland into an ecological disaster.”

The report found that, without exception, all the water bodies in Ogoni was polluted by the activities of oil companies – Shell Petroleum Development Company (Shell) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Indeed the report stated that some of what the people took as potable water had carcinogens, such as benzene, up to 900 times above World Health Organisation standards. The report also revealed that at some places in Ogoniland, the soil is polluted with hydrocarbons to a depth of five (5) metres.

The UNEP report revealed that the Ogoni homeland had indeed been turned into an “ecological disaster,” as the Bill of Rights asserted. We remind ourselves that the UNEP report made recommendations that most of us saw as low hanging fruits that government could easily have responded to assuage the pains of the people and commence a process of restoring the territory to an acceptable state. The apparent inaction is nothing but a squandering of opportunities to rescue a people and for impactful political action.

A total clean up of Ogoni land will take a life time or about thirty years at the least. That is the length of time UNEP estimates it would require to clean up the water bodies in the territory. And it would require an additional five (5) years to clean up the land. How is that a lifetime? Well, life expectancy in the Niger Delta stands at approximately forty-one years.

At the eve of the first anniversary of the presentation of the UNEP report, the Federal Government hurriedly cobbled up an outfit incongruously named Hydrocarbons Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP). The project was set up basically to hoodwink the Ogoni people into thinking that action was being taken to implement the UNEP report. A year after the setting up of HYPREP under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources – a major polluter of Ogoni land – the only visible acts of implementation of the UNEP report has been the planting of sign posts at some places informing the people that their environment is contaminated and that they should keep off. You could almost laugh, but this is sad and serious. Keep off your environment! No options given. The people still drink the polluted waters and farm the polluted lands. Seafood is still being scrounged from the polluted waters and community people still process their foods in the crude-coated creeks.

Two years after the UNEP report, we believe that it is not too late for the government to act. President Jonathan can

•    Declare Ogoni land an ecological disaster zone and invest resources to tackle the deep environmental disaster here.
•    Urgently provide potable drinking water across Ogoni land
•    Commission an assessment of the entire Niger Delta environment. An assessment or audit of the environment of the entire nation should equally be on the cards urgently.
•    Those found guilty of crimes against the people and the environment should be brought to book and made to pay for their misdeeds. Blame for oil thefts must go beyond the diversionary focus on the miniscule volumes taken up by bush refiners. The major crude oil stealing mafias must be uncovered. Crude oil and gas volumes must also be metred as demanded by groups such as the Environmental Rights Action (ERA).
•    Engage in dialogue with the Ogoni people as to the time-scale and scope of actions to be taken to restore the environment. Issues raised in the Ogoni Bills of Rights and the UNEP report provide good bases for dialogue. Extend this all over the Niger Delta.
•    Ensure that the actions to tackle the ecological disaster that the Niger Delta has become are not seen as opportunity for patronage or jobs for the boys. UNEP should play a key oversight role, to ensure quality and to build confidence in the process.
•    The body to tackle the problem should be domiciled in the Ministry of Environment and should not by any means be under the polluting Petroleum Resources Ministry.
•    Shell should be ordered to urgently dismantle whatever remains of their facilities in Ogoni land along with toxic wastes they dumped in the territory.
•    Shell should also be required to replace the Trans Niger Delta pipeline that carries crude oil from other parts of the region across Ogoni territory.
•    Clean up the polluted lands and waters.

These are just some of the steps that must be taken urgently. The UNEP report gives a good list of several things that need to be done. The time has come to halt the ostrich posture and to face the national environmental challenges squarely. Two years is long enough. Our peoples have patiently lined up to fall into early graves. Twenty-three years ago several Ogoni people were sacrificed because they dared to speak up concerning the state of their homeland.

A stanza of the Nigerian National Anthem urges, “The Labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain.” We cannot continue to sing those lines mindlessly while the ecological disaster persists and our heroes groan in their graves.


Africa Under Pressure To Accept GMOs Says Nnimmo Bassey.


The founder of the Non- Governmental Organization, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) Nnimmo Bassey has decried the rate at which Africa is being put under pressure to open up to Genetically Modified Foods. Speaking on Sahara TV, Mr. Bassey threw light on the activities of powerful organizations, which are promoting the widespread use of GMOs in Nigeria and across the whole of Africa. According to to Mr. Bassey, a lot of the assertions propounded by the promoters of GMOs are actually false and this can be deduced from research conducted by reputed international scientists.


“The argument they give is that genetically engineered crops   produce more; they have higher yield than natural crops, and it’s been shown that this is not true, ” he said. He revealed that several studies had been conducted on the subject, including one in which 400 scientists compared the yield rate of genetically engineered crops   in the US with natural crops in Europe and found that the natural crops had a higher yield rate than the GMOs. Thus, the fable that GMOs are designed to fight hunger in Africa by helping farmers produce more is totally unfounded in his estimation. He also debunked the popular assertion that GMOs utilize fewer chemicals  saying that the same companies that produce the GMOs are the same companies that produce the chemicals and that these chemicals may have been particularly designed to suit the kind of seed they produce. “Genetically engineered crops are not engineered to help anybody, ” he opined, ” they are engineered to help the industry that produces the crops .”

Mr. Bassey said companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (ITA), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Rockefeller Foundation and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations are among a long list of institutions, mostly behind this push to introduce GMOs to the African continent. He said, ” the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has at this moment announced that they are going to help Nigeria build a bio-technology laboratory, and the whole idea is to prime the country to produce these genetically engineered seeds not just for Nigeria but for the whole of Africa. ”

He regretted that organizations like the IITA are promoting GMOs even though they have in the past researched and produced hybrid seeds, which seek to do the same things the GMOs claim to do- without the attendant hazards- and yet are still involved in promoting these GMOs.He also said there is a link with the energy sector as vast parcels of land would be required to grow GMOs some of which will also be used to produce biofuels like ethanol.Mr. Bassey asserted that the future of global food security lies in the hands of small-scale farmers   and not in large-scale industrial   farming. Backing his assertion with the 2008 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) reports, he called for a fundamental right to eat safe food. He also touched on other current issues in Nigeria.


Do Not Force-Feed Nigerians With GMOs By Nnimmo Bassey.


By Nnimmo Bassey

It is with shock and extreme disappointment that we note the position of two ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that the country should import and consume genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The reports quote the ministers of Agriculture , Dr Akinwumi Adesina, and that of Science and Technology, Professor Ita EWa as both happily endorsing the steps. We are disappointed because these ministries and the government of Nigeria ought to protect the interests of the citizens of Nigeria and not pander to the desires of the makers of genetically engineered products.

We are surprised that the government would take such a stand without a backing Biosafety Law in place in Nigeria and without consideration of the profound impact that such an open door to the products would have on the Nigerian agriculture, environment and the people.

The Nigerian government has of late treated the concerns of the people with palpable contempt. For instance, field trials of genetically engineered cassava has been carried out without public consultation and without public information as to whether that variety of cassava has been introduced into our farms and whether we are already consuming such. In fact some Nigerians think that the cassava bread the Minister of Agriculture advertises may actually be made of GMO varieties. Nigerians need to know.

As stated in The Daily Trust (26/06/2013) the Minister of Agriculture said at a media briefing “that Nigeria could not afford to be alone among African countries in accepting and consuming GM products. He noted that South Africa, Egypt, Burkina Faso and Sudan were already doing the same.” We should state here that Sudan was arm-twisted by donor nations to accept whole grain GMOs in food aid following the food crisis of 2004. The same tactics were applied on Angola. When it was earlier tried on Zambia in 2002 that country resisted the pressure, was denied food aid, and weathered the storm through self-reliance and protection of their agriculture and food systems. Zambia still refuses to accept today.

Contrary to the claims of the minister, Burkina Faso has not introduced GMOs into their food. That country planted genetically engineered cotton otherwise called Bt Cotton. The first harvest of that cotton last year was a big disappointment as the farmers got short fibre cotton rather than the long fibres they harvested from the conventional cotton they were used to planting.

South Africa is the most problematic on the continent when it comes to the regulation and introduction of GMOs. Public resistance have been strong, but the historical political context must also be considered in understanding the path the nation began to toe and the difficulties in ensuring a transition from certain routes. Studies by the African Centre for Biosafety has revealed that corn products supplied by Tiger Brand in South Africa to companies including to Dangote Foods, a Nigerian conglomerate, has high GMO corn contents. This revelation ought to drive the Nigerian government to order an investigation into the importation of unwholesome foods and food products into Nigeria rather than making announcement of backdoor moves to ambush Nigerians into eating GMOs without their consent.

We recall here that in 2006/7 when an unauthorised (Liberty Link Rice 601) GMO rice was known to have been introduced into the market, Friends of the Earth Africa in efforts coordinated by Nigeria’s Environmental Rights Action conducted tests on rice samples obtained from markets in Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. It was like searching for a pin a densely covered forest floor, but the illegal rice was found in food aid in Sierra Leone and in commercially imported varieties in Ghana and Nigeria. Following the issuance of the report the variety varnished from the Sierra Leonean markets but persisted in Ghana and Nigeria. Reports forwarded to Nigerian authorities and agencies including NAFDAC where neither acknowledged nor acted upon.

The propensity of Nigeria’s government officials to push the biotech industry advertisement spin with regard to GMOs is condemnable.

The trumpeted advantages of GMOs over natural varieties have been shown to be nothing other than industry-generated myths. The same can be said of the manipulative narratives of hunger and malnutrition on the African continent. Once it was said that Africans are starved, today we are told that perhaps we may not be starving, but that we are malnourished. While we do not deny that some persons go to bed hungry and that some are malnourished (this is true of any nation or continent) the politics of hunger has been so hyped and jaundiced that even the G8 has now formed an alliance on malnutrition in Africa. The Nigerian Minister of Agriculture was among the first to jump on the bandwagon of praise singers for the so-called initiative that is nothing but a foot in the door for the biotech industry that have fought with little success to open up Africa for their Frankenstein seeds and foods.

The myths of GMOs include that they are higher yielding, are more nutritious and require less herbicides and pesticides. Another myth that is often peddled is that they are climate-smart and can flourish in adverse weather conditions. Scientists independent from the biotech industry have shown through careful research that GMOs are not higher yielding than natural and conventional varieties. They are not more nutritious but may actually be injurious to human health. They do not reduce the use of chemicals in agriculture either. It has been seen that although the crops are often engineered to withstand herbicides produced by the same companies that produce the seeds, the weeds grow to resist the herbicides and farmers are forced to keep raising the concentration of the herbicides, thus compounding the resulting harm to biodiversity of the areas affected. The ones engineered to kill pests have ended up sometimes killing unintended organisms.

We should also mention here that GMOs work best with large-scale commercial agriculture. But the widespread dependence on chemical inputs have led to the death of pollinators like bees and saddled the world with silent farms and forests without insects and other beneficial species. Certainly Nigeria does not want to join the ranks of nations that hire or buy bees to pollinate their farms. We are not sure also that Nigerians want to toe a path that may lead to farmers pollinating their crops by hand.

Africa’s soil is acclaimed as among of the best for crop cultivation. This, coupled with the myopia of some of our leaders, have led to massive land grabs on the continent and the permission of unregulated farming practices in those colonial enclaves.

Finally, we call on the Nigerian government to consider the fact that the nation is yet to have a Biosafety Law with which the environment and our biodiversity can be protected and defended. The government should also consider the fact that Nigeria is a signatory to the Cartagena Protocol that has the cardinal Precautionary Principle. We cannot be force-fed by a savage biotech industry that seeks to colonise African seeds and food systems. The fact that GMOs will not feed the world is well studied and documented. See the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report, for example.

GMOs will enslave the world through the intellectual property rights that allows the biotech industry to patent their seeds, debars farmers from sharing or saving seeds and forces them to buy seeds every planting season. It seeks to overturn age long sustainable practices.

Nigeria should be a leader in the defence of the African environment, not a Slavic follower of the dictates of the biotech industry or by others who are offering thirty filthy pieces.

Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation,


Ogoni and the Agony of a Delayed Clean Up By Nnimmo Bassey.

By Nnimmo Bassey

When the UNEP report on the assessment of the Ogoni environment was released in August 2011 the world was astounded at the level of devastation visited on the territory by decades of oil extraction and pollution.

Ogoniland in Nigeria shot into international glare in the early 1990s when the people peacefully demanded an end to reckless despoliation of their land and waters. When the UNEP report was released there was a general sense of relief that at last a definitive study has been carried out in at least a part of the Niger Delta and that remediation steps would be taken to rescue the people from the impacts of the pollution.

Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC or Shell), the major polluter in the territory, paid for the study in a rather poetic turn of events, on the polluter-pays basis. If that was not an admission of culpability in the ecocide in Ogoniland, you may have to invent another word for the crime.

The report showed a staggering level of pollution that would require 25-30 years of clean-up activities if there were to be a chance of real remediation.  Many people expected the government to declare Ogoniland a disaster zone. The Ogoni people waited to see some clean-up action. The Nigerian people waited to see some clean-up action. The international community waited to see some clean-up action. That the expected action was not forthcoming was a scandal of massive proportions.

Nothing was done until twelve full months rolled by. In other words, since the report was issued till that date, a full year was added to the estimated time needed to restore the Ogoni environment. But what was done after one year?

It took one year after it had been ascertained that there was no safe drinking water in Ogoniland and that the land itself was polluted to depths of up to five metres in places, for any whisper to be heard from the corridors of power.

The UNEP report set out simple emergency actions to be taken to ensure an acceptable clean up of Ogoniland. One of the key recommendations was that government should set up an “Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Authority.”  This authority was to have a starting fund of US$1 billion. Rather than set up this body that would set about the restoration of Ogoni land, what government did was to set up what it calls the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP).  This project has succeeded in planting some pollution warning signposts in Ogoniland and billboards on oil thefts in Port Harcourt.

A cursory comparison of the recommended body and the entity that government created shows that something is critically wrong. Why set up a body that would restore rather than clean up pollution? Ogoniland is badly polluted as it is, to set up a body to compound the pollution is alarming, not amusing. Ken Saro-Wiwa, a stickler for correct concepts and sentences, would have written copiously on this twisted contraption if the jackboots had not wickedly truncated his life in 1995.

UNEP officials led by Erik Solheim, former Norwegian Minister of Environment and International Development and UNEP Special Envoy for Disasters and Conflicts, visited Nigeria early February 2013 to meet with government officials and some partners in Abuja and Port Harcourt. The purpose of the visit was to get a sense of what was being done with the UNEP Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland and to know what the next steps would be.

It is not clear what the team came away with, but we at least know that UNEP is committed to seeing the report implemented and Ogoniland cleaned.

In a statement issued by UNEP at the start of the visit, Solheim who led the team said “With regard to Ogoniland, the UN system is committed to supporting the government throughout the entire process of implementing the recommendations of the report. On behalf of UNEP, I look forward to coordinated and collaborative action with our Nigerian and international partners in addressing pollution in Ogoniland.”

The Ogoni people are one of the most mobilised peoples anywhere in the world. The umbrella Movement for the Survival of Ogoni (MOSOP) enjoys a high level of support across the Ogoni kingdoms, has provided consistent leadership over the years and is well respected by the people. That is, despite some difficult moments, as would be expected of any serious movement.

The degree of cohesion of the Ogoni people provides an excellent template for government to set about the clean up of the territory in a transparent and easy manner. If there are to be difficulties it should be of the technical kind, not the socio-political varieties.

It is not too late for the government to scrap HYPREP and set up the recommended “Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Authority.”  We will call this the Authority for short.

HYPREP was a hasty creation to tell the world that at least one step had been taken, one year after the release of the UNEP report.

Government should not be shy to do the right thing. Steps taken in the wrong direction may be many, but keeping in that direction may not eventually lead to the right destination.  It is equally wasteful to insist on building on a faulty foundation.

Scrap HYPREP, set up the Authority. This Authority would then set about consulting the people, call mass meetings of the Ogoni people, circulate the popular (pidgin English) version of the summary of the UNEP report which can be downloaded from the UNEP website, present the strategy for the clean up to the people and transparently set out the budget outlay for the exercise. The Authority would have the Ogoni people endorse its broad plan and strategies for implementation and monitoring as well. The Authority should be domiciled in either the Ministry of Environment or in the Presidency. It should by no means be located in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources – a key polluter, through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, in Ogoniland.

The extent of pollution and the need to ensure that the clean up is not an occasion for jobbers must be stressed. As UNEP acknowledges, the clean-up required will be complex and there may not be a single method of getting this done. Any delay means further reducing the quality of life and the life expectancy of the people that has already dropped to just over 40 years mainly due to the hydrocarbon pollution. Bloodshed and great sacrifices have been borne by the Ogoni people. The clean up of the territory is not an occasion for gambling.

The selection of consultants, contractors and the handling of the budget require very strict oversight. While we agree that it is possible to have officials in the Authority to handle the procurement and budgetary matters, it is believed that while the in-house crew play roles in those tasks, an agency such as UNEP should play major oversight roles. If this recommendation were accepted UNEP would not handle any of the clean up jobs, but would play a monitoring role.

We are yet to see the Senate and the House of Representatives taking up the clean up of Ogoniland as a critical issue of concern. They need to. It is their duty to should ensure that a proper Authority is set up and that there is adequate budgetary outlay for the tasks with both government and Shell putting the money on the table and having an umpire like the UNEP empowered to warehouse the funds.

Getting things on the right track is extremely urgent. As UNEP stated, “Continued delay in the implementation of the recommendations will not only undermine the livelihoods of the Ogoni communities, but will also cause the pollution footprint to expand. In the long run, the findings of the study itself will become dated, and therefore further assessments will be needed, causing additional delays.” UNEP hoped to “convey this sense of urgency to the stakeholders during” the mission. It would be another scandal if this sense of urgency gets ignored.


“The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Is One Of The Biggest Polluters,” Says Nnimmo Bassey.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has been called one of the biggest polluters in Nigeria. The charged was made by Nnimmo Bassey during an interview with SaharaTV’s Omoyele Sowore.  Mr. Bassey, an environmental activist and Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of The Earth (FoEN), was on SaharaTV to discuss the verdict from the Farmers versus Shell case in the Netherlands.

“We must remember when we talk about Shell, ExxonMobil & Chevron, we also have to talk about the NNPC under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources,” Mr. Bassey said. “The impact of their pollution can be seen in River State when some people cannot open their windows due to what is known as “carbon black”, which is in the air due to the petrochemical operations of the refineries.”

Earlier in the week, a ruling handed down by a Dutch court found the oil multi-national guilty on only one of five counts in a case brought against the company by  Nigerian fish farmers & Friends of the Earth International. The news was received with mixed reviews. Some people believe that this was a major let down in terms of holding the oil company accountable.

Others, including Nnimmo Bassey, believe that it was a positive development due to the fact that a court has never come down on the side of the Nigerian farmers and opened up the option for an appeal against the decisions on the other four allegations against Shell. At this time, the settlement on one favorable outcome is unknown.

Sadly  Nigerian courts have found Shell Oil, to be responsible for numerous oil spills and other environmentally destructive practices. But Shell, along with Chevron & Exxon-Mobil, has laughed this off and have not cleaned up the environments in which they operated. Mr. Bassey explained, “the problem with the Nigerian judiciary is that there is no program or process for implementation, so judgments are made within the courts, but they can be ignored without consequence.”

Another problem he pointed to was that these companies are masters at gaming the system. They have the time, money, and employees to engage in a seemingly endless appeal campaign against any court rulings.

Nnimmo Bassey went on to call the situation within Nigeria as an environmental emergency. Annual oil spill volume is measured in the million of tons, the equivalent of 1 Exxon Valdez spill, statistics showing one new oil spill per day.

The UN Environmental Program’s assessment of Ogoni land released in 2011 showed that the water table in the area has been contaminated that benzene levels were present at nine hundred times the recommended level, and that the ground is polluted up to five meters down. The report found it would take 25 years for a cleanup. Currently, according to Nnimmo Bassey, there so no in-depth cleanup or environmental restoration project in place.

He pointed out that although the Nigerian government has an oil detection & response department, it is severely lacking in many respects.

“The Nigerian Oil Detection & Oil Dept. is located within the Ministry Environment. They are however poorly equipped and funded. So much so that they must rely on the facilities of the companies, whom they are suppose to monitoring, to carry out their operations. “

Many people in Niger Delta wondered if after many years, when one of their “sons” was finally catapulted to Aso Rock, things would start to get better in the region.

Mr. Bassey said that he has noticed that there has been a reduction in the demands for rights, so as he put it, “not to rock the boat.” As far as any meaningful difference, Nnimmo Bassey concluded with this, “I would need a microscope to see if there is a positive difference.”


Shell shuts oil station in Nigeria, activists report spill.


Shell said Thursday it had shut down an oil processing facility in southern Nigeria over a pump failure, but denied reports that a significant amount of oil had spilled in the area.

The flowstation in the Nembe Creek area of Bayelsa state was closed on Wednesday, the Anglo-Dutch company said.

It said “some oil escaped from the seal into the saver pit in the flowstation, with some sheen observed (in the area). The pump has been repaired.”

Nigerian NGO Environmental Rights Action sent a team to visit the site Wednesday and reported that there was a spill. The head of the group, Nnimmo Bassey, described the spill as extensive.

“It is shameful that Shell could indulge in an exercise of trying to hide what even the blind can see,” he told AFP.

“The spill is extensive and very visible on the waters — on the Brass River and is reported to be flowing into the Atlantic Ocean,” he added.

Areas of the oil-producing Niger Delta region have been badly polluted by decades of spills due to a range of factors, including sabotage by thieves or militants as well as operational or maintenance faults by the oil companies.

Activists say companies such as Shell, Nigeria’s biggest producer, have not done enough to prevent leaks.

Nigeria is Africa‘s largest oil producer.



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