Some environmental activists in the Niger Delta region have described as untrue the claim by the federal government that it has begun the implementation of the United Nations Environmental Programme, UNEP, report on Ogoniland.
The activists, in separate interviews with PREMIUM TIMES, said that such claims are “cosmetic window dressings” designed to deceive Nigerians.
Peter Idabor, the Director-General of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, had on Wednesday stated that the federal government had started addressing some emergency measures to provide alternative facilities for the affected communities.
“What we are dealing with now are emergency measures that UNEP has requested to start with – providing alternative sources of drinking water, putting signs to ward off people from having their bath in dangerous areas,” Mr. Idabor had said.
But in their reactions, the activists insisted that the federal government had not begun to implement any part of the report.
Nnimmo Bassey, the founder of Home of Mother Earth Foundation, said that government had only erected signposts warning people to keep off polluted lands and rivers and creeks in Ogoniland without alternatives.
“The people are still drinking polluted water, planting crops in polluted land and they are still absolutely exposed to the toxic legacy of oil exploitation and pollution left by Shell and NNPC,” Mr. Bassey added.
The UNEP report on Ogoniland was released in 2011 and, among other recommendations, stated that an initial sum of $1 billion should be provided by the federal government and Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, for the remediation of the environment.
“The problem we have in Nigeria is that it is the oil companies who are responsible for oil spill that are also responsible for oil spill monitoring, evaluation, clean up and so on,” said Godwin Ojo, Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria.
“If you use this to look at the problem in Ogoniland, you will see that it is not proper to say that clean-up has started.
“Government have erected in some areas, signposts that say ‘This is acid lake, stay clear;’ ‘This land is polluted, do not farm;’ ‘This river is polluted, do not swim.’
“They are doing all these without providing alternatives. If you say people should not swim in the acid lake, what is the alternative? If you say they should not farm on polluted land, what is the alternative?
“As I speak to you, the people are swimming in acid lake, they are farming and fishing in polluted water and contaminated soil. The relief measures that are supposed to go to them on a daily basis is not forthcoming,” Mr. Ojo said.
In the wake of the release of the UNEP report, the federal government established the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, HYPREP, to provide alternative facilities for the Ogoni communities.
Part of the alternative facilities included deploying water trucks to the communities to provide them with clean drinking water.
Celestine Akpobari, an indigene of Ogoni, said that the government merely provided, on a daily basis, three tankers of water to service a population of about 1.2 million people.
“They were taking our non-violent posture for granted. The communities that used violence have all received presidential handshakes,” said Mr. Akpobari, an environmental rights campaigner.
“Going on the pages of newspapers to deceive Nigerians is not the best way to handle people who have contributed so much to the development of this country.
“If they had done anything to alleviate our pains, I would be the first person to go on air,” Mr. Akpobari added.
Mr. Akpobari noted that while the government had put up signposts warning them to stay away from their water bodies, “there is no single water to drink anywhere in Ogoniland.”
“We have continued to drink the water. We are thirsty and there is no alternative.”