By Uduma Kalu and Jimitota Onoyume
Reactions from Nige rian groups and individuals following the release of a landmark UN report detailing oil pollution that may require the world’s biggest ever clean-up by Nigeria’s government and oil giant Shell have put the government and the oil giant under heavy pressure.
While rights groups want to use the U.N. report as momentum to pressure the Nigerian government and Shell to take major steps in clearing up pollution, a source close to the case in London said it will cost Shell£250m,( N61.5b) to pay the villagers and clean up the place.
NNPC on its part told Reuters through its spokesman for NNPC that it would not pay. “There is no question of paying because we already cleaned up all the spills,” he said in reaction to the $1 billion proposal and comments made by UNEP that spills were not cleaned up.
Saying the UN report was bought by Shell, Movement for the Survival of Ogoni people (MOSOP) in its reaction said, “the report must not be pushed down our throats since UNEP failed to keep to its own due process requirements that rest the integrity of EIAS report on public participation, reviewing and monitoring collaboration, which would have made the UNEP report transparent and undisputable with valid agreements reached at various stages of the process as proof of transparency and acceptability.”
MOSOP called for urgent independence on Due process test; neutrality and impartiality test; integrity test, and reconcile with World Bank EIA policy, UNEP procedures and Nigerian Government regulations, adding that, “the way forward should further take into account: Principle 17 of 1992 UN Rio Declaration on the Environment and Development as well as political right and other demands of the Ogoni people contained in the Ogoni Bill of Rights proclaimed on August 26, 1990 and revised on August 26, 1991.
“The report finally confirms what we have been saying all these years; that the entire Niger Delta region, not just Ogoni land, has been severely damaged due to oil exploitation,” said Nnimmo Bassey, director of Environmental Rights Action (ERA). But I’m not optimistic that the multinationals and government will change their ways of operating in the country despite the fact that the report said that Shell did not meet its own required standards of operations.”
Said Ledum Mitee, former president of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP). “In our view, Shell has just been able to purchase, at huge cost and time, another four years of doing nothing, absolutely nothing, to clean the environment.” But prominent Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana thinks it provides an opportunity for people to make legitimate demands.” An NNPC official told international news agency Reuters that the NNPC would not pay the $1bn asked for the clean up saying the clean up has already been done.
At a MOSOP Emergency General Meeting in Bori, headquarters of Ogoniland last Thursday, the group in a statement said though it welcomed the awareness the UNEP, it alleged that the report was bought “with $9.5 million by the polluters, including Royal-Dutch/Shell, think this now provides an opportunity for people to make legitimate demands.
“UNEP produced the report, which was paid for by Shell, at the request of the Nigerian government. “ MOSOP is challenging the integrity of the report, recalling an earlier confession by UNEP team leader Mike Cowing that the report has been informed by data and information solely supplied by Shell and the government, without actual study on the ground.”
The statement signed by its spokesman and President/Spokesman, Dr. Goodluck Diigbo, the purported UNEP meeting with 23,000 Ogonis is only on paper, and there is no evidence to prove who attended, what review was done, agreements reached, if any and Ogonis who signed such agreements as proof of public participation as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment Study, EIAS due process.”
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report offers evidence that operator Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), a coalition between state-oil firm NNPC and Shell, failed to follow best practice, leading to serious public health issues. It also laid out a detailed road map for the world’s biggest ever oil-spill clean-up, taking 30 years and cost an initial $1 billion, led by money from SPDC and the Nigerian government. The local communities are not holding their breath.
Diigbo said: the report is a high profile media game. “It began a day earlier with a news flash of Shell admitting responsibility for oil spillage in Bodo, Ogoniland. Then a report appeared, exactly in line with several other failed promises by Shell, stating one billion dollars to be spent for oil damages of 55 years, accompanied by an air view of a wealthy looking city at seaside that has nothing to do with Ogoniland. This is absolutely a regrettable act of disinformation and cover-up. Who determined that restoration of Ogoniland would last for 30 years? What is the extent or estimate of overall damage? Everything is dictated to us, the Ogoni people who have lost our means of livelihood, subjected economic burden and poverty. In Nov. 2010 the Ogoni worried that UNEP report was secretly being done and they immediately protested (see pictures attached). Meanwhile, the Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers Association, COTRA meets August 5, 2011 by 2pm in Bori to study the report and will issue a statement by August 6.
“The unilateral report may sound wonderfully pleasant because of the rich scientific literature, but MOSOP has records of conflicting statements by UNEP team leader Mike Cowing that contradict the genuineness of the report. This further reminds MOSOP of the previously publicized report of attempts by UNEP team under Mike Cowing to bribe Ogonis to sign on to an already written report even without a single visit to Ogoniland.
“The outright rejection of this report can be thoroughly justified on the basis of lack of integrity owing to UNEP violation of due process and the arm-chair characteristics of the report. However, MOSOP calls for a second expert opinion on the UNEP report by independent experts, not including UNEP team members. This should include Ogoni representatives and independent experts appointed by MOSOP for purposes of equity and fairness.