The environmental pollution brought about by oil exploration in Ogoniland is so bad that kids sometimes have to bath in crude oil as a result of absence of clean water, a senator has said.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment, Bukola Saraki, whose committee visited Ogoni on Tuesday, said he witnessed a boy bath in crude oil.
“Seeing a boy take a bath in crude oil in Ogoni land broke my heart,” Mr. Saraki said.
At an oil spill site in Bodo community, the Senate Committee, performing its oversight functions, also saw a woman processing cassava in water contaminated with crude.
The various contamination cases witnessed by the committee caused an infuriated Mr. Saraki to lament at the oil pollution in Ogoni land.
“I experienced firsthand degradation of our land by oil spill. The floor I was standing on during oversight visit caved in,” said Mr. Saraki, representing Kwara Central at the Senate.
An environmental activist, Nnimmo Bassey, who accompanied the committee in the visit, said that some of the spills happened in the 1970s and were never cleaned up.
“What they did was to turn up the soil, you can’t walk on it because it is too soft,” Mr. Bassey, the Chairman of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, said.
“The locations we went in Ogoni today, I’d say we went to visit crime scenes, and unfortunately, the criminals are walking free,” Mr. Bassey added.
An ‘unimplemented’ report
In August 2011, the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP presented to President Goodluck Jonathan, the report of a two year, independent assessment of the environment and public health impacts of oil contamination conducted on Ogoni land; and options for remediation.
The assessment was done at the request of the Nigerian government.
Among the recommendations in the report, UNEP stated that an initial capital injection of US$1 billion be contributed by both the oil industry and the Nigerian government to cover the first five years of the remediation process.
Mr. Bassey said that the recommendations in the UNEP report remain “unimplemented.”
“They are not implementing the report and the intention to implement it is doubtful,” said Mr. Bassey.
Though the Federal Government sad it is willing to implement the report, it is yet to agree with the oil companies on what ratio of the clean-up fund will be contributed by which party.
Feeling betrayed by the government and the oil companies, particularly has regard the environmental degradation, a faction of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Ogoni People, MOSOP, has declared self government from Nigeria.
We will stand by the Ogonis
The Senate Committee however promised to stand by the people of Ogoni in their fight for environmental justice.
“I have introduced a bill called The NOSDRA Amendment Bill (which has passed second reading in the Senate) that will allow for stiffer penalties, and compensation for communities,” Mr. Saraki said.
“People of Niger Delta aren’t asking for too much. All they want is for their environment to be respected and international best practice be followed.
“The battle is one that I will take up to any level,” he said.