The Federal Government says it is fully committed to comprehensive remediation of the polluted areas of Ogoniland and the restoration of livelihood to the affected communities.
The Minister of Environment, Dr Muhammad Abubakar, stated this during a recent tour of Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) facilities and some remediation sites at Ogoni in Rivers State.
Mr Saghir el Mohammed, who is the Director of Press at the ministry, gave an update on the minister’s visit in a statement in a series of tweets on Tuesday.
The Minister made the visited at the weekend to assess the progress being made on various remediation sites across the land, in line with the United Nations Environment Programme report on Ogoniland.
He assured the people that President Muhammadu Buhari was very passionate and committed to the full implementation of the UN report on Ogoniland.
Dr Abubakar also visited the Chairman of Ogoniland Council of Chiefs, King G. N. K. Gininwa, in his palace where he told the traditional ruler that the Ogoni clean-up was a vital project of the present administration.
He said, “The Ogoni clean-up is a signature project, the first of its kind in Africa and the world with no existing template but rather, HYPREP was developing one that would be used hereafter for the remediation of the rest of the Niger Delta”.
The minister assured the people of Ogoni that the Federal Government was not just concerned about remediating the environment but was also concerned about the well-being and economic life of the people.
He stated, “The Federal Government is aware that there are several other challenges you are facing as a result of the pollution.
“That is why even though the core mandate of HYPREP is to remediate the land other programmes have been built into the Project to address some of these challenges.”
In his remarks, King Gininwa appealed to the minister for the inclusion of the Ogonis and to ensure that the people benefit fully from the clean-up project.
He added that the people of Ogoni were prepared to support the Federal Government towards full and successful implementation of the UN report in Ogoniland.
Dr Abubakar, in his response, said, “ I am glad to know that there is a strong synergy between the Ogoni leadership, the people and HYPREP.
“I thank you especially for the high level of support and cooperation given to the Project. Today, I am here not just to see the sites but to also meet with you the great people of Ogoniland”.
The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People has condemned an alleged invasion of Kegbara Dere community, in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State by men of the Nigerian Army.
In a statement by the Acting Publicity Secretary of MOSOP, Sunny Zorvah, the group claims that it received a report stating that a middle-aged man was killed in the operation, while another person shot by troops and is currently in a critical condition.
He said information he got has it that men of the Nigerian Army accompanied SPDC pipeline workers to the area and started shooting without any explanation resulting in the death and injuries sustained.
The group added, “Even though the movement is in support of genuine efforts by legitimate authorities and government to fight criminality in Ogoniland and other parts of the state or country, we do not support and will not tolerate unprovoked military onslaught and reckless killings in any Ogoni community or elsewhere.”
While calling on the security agencies to stop what it describes as reckless killings in Ogoni communities, Mosop asks the police to urgently commence an investigation into the alleged military raid and ensure the culprits are brought to book to prevent total breakdown of law and order in the area.
In a swift reaction, the military has dismissed the claim by MOSOP, saying that troops never raided anywhere in Gokana as alleged.
The Director of Defence Information, Colonel Clement Nwachukwu told Channels Television that there is a transnational pipeline in Gokana, a key national asset, which was ruptured by oil thieves.
Col. Nwachukwu who also sent photos of oil workers carrying out repairs on the pipeline to back his claim on the matter, said each time technicians from international oil companies were sent to effect repairs on the pipeline, armed gangs would scare them away by shooting sporadically into the air.
He added, “But on one occasion, troops only accompanied the oil workers to provide them with protection to enable them carry out the repairs without being scared away. While that was going on, the armed gangs came as before and began shooting. Troops responded and fired into the air to disperse the armed gangs.”
He said from the information he got, nobody was targeted by the troops and no one was killed.
See photos sent in by the Director of Defence Information, showing the military providing security as repair works are carried out on a pipeline below:
Four Nigerian women on Tuesday launched a court case in the Netherlands against oil giant Shell for alleged complicity in the execution of their husbands by the military regime in the 1990s.
The civil case has been brought by Esther Kiobel — the widow of Barinem Kiobel who was hanged in 1995 along with writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and seven others — and is backed by Amnesty International.
“My husband had a good heart. Now I am a poor widow who has lost everything,” Esther Kiobel was quoted as telling the court in The Hague by Dutch news agency ANP.
“The abuses that my family and I went through were a horrible experience that has traumatised us to this day,” added Kiobel, who fled Nigeria in 1998 and now lives in the United States.
Kiobel and one of the other widows were in court for opening arguments. The other two women whose husbands were killed were denied visas to attend.
Kiobel added in a statement issued through Amnesty that “over the years, Shell has continually fought to make sure this case is not heard in court. They have the resources to fight me instead of doing justice for my husband.”
The Dutch court writ alleges that Shell helped in the arrest of the men, who had sought to peacefully disrupt oil development in the Ogoni region because of health and environmental impacts.
Saro-Wiwa, president and founder of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), and eight fellow activists were executed on November 10, 1995 after a military tribunal convicted them of the murder of four traditional Ogoni chiefs.
“These women believe that their husbands would still be alive today were it not for the brazen self-interest of Shell, which encouraged the Nigerian government’s bloody crackdown on protesters even when it knew the human cost,” Amnesty’s Mark Dummett said.
Shell denies all involvement in the men’s executions.
“The executions carried out by a military government at that time have deeply affected us,” a spokesman for the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited said.
Shell said it had urged the Nigerian presidency to grant leniency “and we regret that no response was given.”
The Ogoni movement was set up in 1990 to fight against pollution and the destruction of the ecosystem of the 500,000-strong Ogoni community, which lives on an oil-rich parcel of land on the northern edge of the Niger Delta.
The executions provoked a global outcry and led to the suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth. The west African country was re-admitted with the return of civilian rule in 1999.
Amnesty International has accused oil giant, Shell Petroleum of playing a critical role in the 1995 execution of a human rights activist, Mr Ken Saro-Wiwa among several others.
The group is, therefore, calling on the Federal Government to thoroughly probe the company alleging that the perceived activities 22 years ago were crimes against humanity.
In a statement signed by its media manager, Mr Isa Sanusi, the group’s Director of Global Issues, Mr Audrey Gaughran stated that the company collaborated with the military in silencing the people of the region.
He said, “The evidence we have reviewed shows that Shell repeatedly encouraged the Nigerian military to deal with community protests, even when it knew the horrors this would lead to – unlawful killings, rape, torture, the burning of villages.”
“In the midst of this brutal crackdown Shell even provided the military with material support, including transport, and in at least one instance paid a military commander notorious for human rights violations. That it has never answered for this is an outrage.
“It is indisputable that Shell played a key role in the devastating events in Ogoniland in the 1990s, but we now believe that there are grounds for a criminal investigation. Bringing the massive cache of evidence together was the first step in bringing Shell to justice. We will now be preparing a criminal file to submit to the relevant authorities, with a view to prosecution.”
Sanusi stated furthere that the Nigerian government’s campaign against the Ogoni people culminated in the execution, 22 years ago, of nine Ogoni men, including Ken Saro-Wiwa, the writer and activist who led the protests.
The executions followed a purportedly unfair trial and sparked a global outcry. In June 2017 the widows of four of the men filed a court order against Shell in the Netherlands, accusing the company of complicity in their deaths.
It read in part: “An individual or company can be held criminally responsible for a crime if they encourage, enable, exacerbate or facilitate it, even if they were not direct actors.
“For example, knowledge of the risks that corporate conduct could contribute to a crime, or a close connection to the perpetrators, could lead to criminal liability. Amnesty International’s new report “A Criminal Enterprise?” makes the case that Shell was involved in crimes committed in Ogoniland in this way.
“In the 1990s Shell was the single most important company in Nigeria. During the Ogoni crisis, Shell and the Nigerian government operated as business partners and had regular meetings to discuss the protection of their interests.
“Internal memos and minutes from meetings show Shell lobbying senior government officials for military support, even after the security forces had carried out mass killings of protesters.
“ They also show that on several occasions Shell provided logistical or financial assistance to military or police personnel when it was well aware that they had been involved in murderous attacks on defenceless villagers.”
The group further accused the company of continually denying its involvement in human rights violations, adding that there has never been an investigation into the allegations.
It is not the first time Anesty International has accussed Shell of complicity in the Ogoni bloodshed bu the company has maintained its innocence over the years.
On June 2, 2016, the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta Region were thrown into wild jubilation as the Federal Government flagged off the Ogoni cleanup. Over a year after, the desperate reality of the Ogoni land still cries out for intervention.
What happened to the Federal Government’s planned implementation of the $1billion UNEP Report? How much has the Federal Government committed so far to the project? When is the actual cleanup of the Ogoni taking off?
The Coordinator, Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), Mr Marvin Dekil, answers these questions and more in this interview with Gbenga Ashiru for Channels Television’s Question Time.
There are structures in place to ensure that the project takes off smoothly. The project has started already. The procedures and the process to get the project started is to put together the building blocks. The governing structure of the institution is there to ensure that the project is immune from political manipulation which is part of the reasons why the previous attempts were not successful. So, the commitment was to ensure that whatever process is put in place endures time and political transition and that has been achieved.
You complain about the intrusion of political elements in the hydrocarbon remediation project. But can you really dissociate the politics away from this cleanup project? How do you intend to kick off this project, without the intrusion of the political elements?
In the governing council, we have the community represented. In the governing council, we also have the civil societies. All of these are the stakeholders in the project. This is done to make sure that all stakeholders are considered and adequately represented in decision making for the project. Talking about the technical aspect of the project and when exactly it is going to take off, it has started. The project coordination office started in March and actually commenced (work) in April, this year.
So, within April and now, in August, so much has been done. We have gone to the communities and sensitised the people across the four local government areas. We have been to specific communities and engaged the leaders including women leaders and youths. We have already opened demonstration sites across these four local government areas. If you go to Tai Local Government, we are opening a demonstration site with two companies there to demonstrate the best technology that they have for the project. This was only done after extensive sensitisation in these communities.
Would you sweep under the carpet the fact that the Ijaw Youth Congress are complaining that they are not being carried along in this project that affects their livelihood?
HYPREP has a national mandate. We are starting in Ogoni. So the particular report we are implementing is that of the Ogoni people. When we get to other areas, we will engage them as well. But right now, we are starting with the Ogoni people – the Ogoni youths and its stakeholders. Being carried along depends on what the people mean by being carried along. A couple of days ago, the Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Usman Jubril, was in our office in Port Harcourt, where he met with a section of youths involved in artisan refinery. The youths renounced their activities and showed interest in HYPREP projects. They promised to stop all activities that will cause further pollution to the environment. This is a programme that we are engaging with the youth to ensure that they do not constitute a problem to the project by providing an alternative source of livelihood.
In a nutshell, does that suggest that the actual cleanup is yet to commence?
What you call the actual cleanup is a process. It is not an activity that is isolated. Cleanup starts with a process and that process has started. This involves going to the sites, evaluating the state of these sites and then designing proper plans that will be used for the execution. The cleanup, which you are calling the actual cleanup, is the last stage.
You are talking of still spending time on the impact assessment but one will presume that the impact assessment was one of the basis for the UNEP report… Technically, the assessments are of different types. There is the initial assessment you do first to find out if there is a contamination. There is another that unravels the quantum of the contamination on the environment? After this, a method is designed for removing that. What UNEP did was answer the first question – is this place contaminated? How much contamination is in the environment? This is another thing we have to do.
Are you suggesting, in essence, that UNEP report is not a comprehensive draft document for the Ogoni Kingdom?
What UNEP did was a $10million assessment project for Ogoniland, which is different from the implementation. The implementation when estimated will involve more funds, so $1billion is not sufficient because the work that will be done is far more than $1billion and that is the phase we are talking about now. That phase is a more detailed and technical activity than the first one that was done. This is the one that requires all the planning that we are putting in place right now. So, the government’s commitment to doing this is unwavering. In the first 100 days as project coordinator, we opened demonstration sites which are still existing in all the comminutes mentioned earlier. They include Kogana, Kadre, Por, Eleme, Ogale, Ebubu, Tai, and Khana. We have existing demonstration sites in all these locations.
Going by the UNEP report, this is a draft work document that is expected to take a period of five years and you have spent a period of 100 days in office. Considering the fact that the project was flagged off last year, it is expected for you to have completed 20% of the cleanup plan…
The report didn’t say five-year plan. It is continuous and it might run into several years. But the actual activity has commenced. You don’t start a process without communicating with the stakeholders, the people and the beneficiaries of the project. You don’t start a project without involving them and getting their inputs or doing the visibility work that is required.
How long is this planning and assessment going to take? You are resting on the crest that this assessment is technical, how do you communicate this project to the people?
This takes me back to the initial part of the project which is sensitisation. The local man just like you pointed out does not understand the technicality of the project, so it is our duty to engage them and make them understand that this project is not a project that you start in one day and the following day, you put bulldozers on the field, that is exactly what we have been doing. The planning phases of this project will take like 18-months because there are things that need to be put in place. One of them is the Integrated contaminated soil management center which we are in the process of designing and building. This has to be in place before the project commences.
Will it suffice to say that there isn’t a comprehensive strategy for the Ogoni cleanup plan?
The Ogoni project is one that is going to redefine the way we do remediation in Nigeria. It is the template that we intend to roll across the country and so, we can’t get it wrong. We can’t be in a hurry to get it wrong. The question you are asking puts you in a situation where you want to rush but that is not the way to go. The way to go is to engage and let people understand that it is a technical project that requires time and expertise and we need to plan so don’t expect quick results because the procedure needs to be followed through.
You have complained in the media about the proliferation of illegal refineries and for us to have a meaningful Ogoni cleanup, how do you intend to stop illegal refining of crude?
Illegal refining is something that poses a serious threat to the project. After the cleanup, if people continue with such acts, it could further pollute the environment and this poses a threat. The main point is that people who engage in this kind of activities put their lives at risk because it has adverse effect on their health.
You have raised the issue of modular refineries as one of the solutions now but the inhabitants are complaining of being denied modular refinery license…
We are still at a stage where this is still being implemented and the planning is ongoing and we want to get input from all the people involved and that is the process where we are so how do you start criticizing what is still at the planning stage.
The Federal Government has restated its commitment to the cleaning up of Ogoni land in Rivers State, South-South Nigeria.
The Coordinator of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), Dr. Marvin Dekil, stated this during a meeting with journalists in Port Harcourt where he gave a report on the work done in the past 100 days.
He hinted that the process leading to the provision of potable water as stated as one of the emergency measures in the report was ongoing.
Dr. Dekil added that more contamination sites have been opened in the four local government areas of Ogoni Kingdom.
HYPREP, an agency set up by the Federal Ministry of Environment to oversee the cleanup project, said it would also train and engage the people from the community to be involved in the project.
Earlier in June, Governor Nyesom Wike had called on the United Nations to prevail on the Federal Government to implement the cleanup of Ogoni land which was flagged off last year.
He made the call when he received the UN Resident/ Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr Edward Kallon, at the Government House in Port Harcourt.
The governor, who regretted that nothing had been done so far on the Ogoni cleanup, said large-scale environmental pollution in different parts of the state had led to environmental degradation, which negatively affects the sources of livelihood of the people.
He added that the cleanup of Ogoni land should not be politicised, as it dwells directly on the development of the area.
The Leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Ogoni Ethnic Nationality from Khana, Gokana, Tai and Eleme Local Government Areas have endorsed Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike for a second term.
In a communique read on behalf of the Ogoni PDP leaders by Senator Lee Maeba, the Ogoni Leaders declared: “That given the outstanding performance of His Excellency, the Governor and his galvanising prowess for the interest of the State, we the Ogoni people in the PDP unanimously urge him to present himself for a second term in office as the Governor of Rivers State in 2019.
“That we encourage all Ogoni sons and daughters to give unalloyed support and continuous solidarity to the administration of Governor Nyesom Wike for the sustenance of his developmental strides in Ogoniland.”
The Ogoni PDP leader resolved that they will never allow the rigging of elections in Ogoni land with the use of the military and other security agencies.
“Never again shall we allow the military, the police and other security agencies to intimidate and influence the outcome of any election in all the four LGAs of Ogoniland. The will of the people must prevail and their votes must count.”
The decision was reached after a meeting of the stakeholders of the PDP to review political developments in Rivers State, the Ogoni people in the PDP observed.
The Ogoni leaders condemned the usage of the military, the police and other security agencies during the last December 10, 2016 rerun legislative elections to impose unpopular representatives against the wishes of the people of Ogoniland.
The widow of Dr Barinem Kiobel, one of the nine Ogoni activists executed in 1995 by the General Sani Abacha-led military government, has filed a case against oil giant, Shell for alleged complicity in the execution of the activists.
Amnesty International said in a statement that the latest case in the Netherlands by Mrs Esther Kiobel revealed details of the alleged role Shell played in the executions.
According to the statement, Esther Kiobel has fought for justice for her husband for more than 20 years, alleging his unlawful arrest and detention, the violation of his personal integrity, the violation of his right to a fair trial and his right to life, and her own right to a family life.
“The executions of the Ogoni Nine shocked the world. Shell has been dodging accountability for its complicity in these deaths for more than twenty years but now, thanks to Esther Kiobel’s determination and bravery in taking on this corporate Goliath, the past is finally catching up with it,” Senior Director of Research at Amnesty International Audrey Gaughran, said.
“Today is a watershed moment in Esther Kiobel’s uphill battle for justice. Shell has to answer for the bloody footprints it left all over Ogoniland,” he added.
‘A Brutal Campaign’
Amnesty International also said the executions were the culmination of a brutal campaign by Nigeria’s military to silence the protests of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), led by Ken Saro-Wiwa.
According to the statement, MOSOP had claimed that others had grown rich on the oil that was pumped from under their soil, while pollution from spills and gas flaring had “led to the complete degradation of the Ogoni environment, turning their homeland into an ecological disaster.” In January 1993, MOSOP declared that Shell was no longer welcome to operate in Ogoniland.
In January 1993, MOSOP declared that Shell was no longer welcome to operate in Ogoniland.
The military authorities responded to the MOSOP protests with force, committing numerous serious human rights violations including killings, torture and rape.
“Shell encouraged the government to stop Ken Saro-Wiwa and MOSOP, knowing this was highly likely to result in human rights violations being committed against them. Shell had plenty of evidence that the Nigerian Military was responding to the Ogoniland protests with abuse,” said Audrey Gaughran.
“Just weeks before the men were arrested, the Chairperson of Shell Nigeria had met with then-President, General Sani Abacha, and raised “the problem of the Ogonis and Ken Saro-Wiwa”. This was not the first time Shell had engaged with military and security forces to frame the Ogoni protests as a “problem”. Shell also repeatedly reminded the authorities of the economic impacts of the MOSOP protests,” Amnesty International added.
Shell was however quoted to have denied all allegation insinuating its involvement in the killings.
“The allegations cited in your letter against Shell are false and without merit. Shell Nigeria did not collude with the military authorities to suppress community unrest and in no way encouraged or advocated any act of violence in Nigeria. We have always denied these allegations in the strongest possible terms.”
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has called on the United Nations to prevail on the Federal Government to implement the cleanup of Ogoni land, which was flagged off last year.
He made the call on Thursday when he received the U.N. Resident/ Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr Edward Kallon, at the Government House in Port Harcourt, the state capital.
The governor, who regretted that nothing had been done so far on the Ogoni cleanup, said large-scale environmental pollution in different parts of the state has led to environmental degradation, which negatively affects the sources of livelihood of the people.
He noted that the cleanup of Ogoni land should not be politicised, as it dwells directly on the development of the area.
This Cleanup Is Very Serious
“Yesterday in the Senate, somebody said that the Federal Government has not done anything as far as Ogoni cleanup is concerned; when we were saying it, they said we were playing politics. But now, it has dawned on them that nothing is being done. So, we urge you to intervene.
“Part of the problem we are having today is because of the lack of attention by the Federal Government when it has to do with Rivers State; we will provide you with a helicopter to see what we are talking about. Don’t only read it on papers, you will really pity us,” he said.
“The Federal Government has taken our oil and our environment has been degraded, nothing seems to be done. We urge you on your own part as the United Nations to impress on the Federal Government that this cleanup is very serious, let it not be a political issue. We should not play politics with the lives of the people,” he added.
Governor Wike also called on the United Nations to partner with the Rivers State government in the area of commercial agriculture.
He said because of the volatile nature of oil prices, investments in commercial agriculture would help create jobs for unemployed youths.
The governor appeal to the UN to provide a link for investors in commercial agriculture to come to the state, adding that his administration would provide incentives such as access to land and certificate of occupancy.
While soliciting for partnership in the area of environmental sanitation, he noted that his administration takes seriously, the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Wike informed the UN official that his administration also has improved security through the diligent implementation of the state amnesty programme.
He said the Rivers State government is working with relevant agencies to improve human rights and decongest the prisons.
In his response, Mr Kallon commended the governor for his effort towards infrastructural development in the state which he said has improved the living condition of the people.
“The United Nations will continue to mobilise support for the development of Rivers State,” he said, adding that “the UN will partner with the State Government in the area of agriculture as a tool of employment generation and empowerment”.
“Partnership will be developed with the Rivers State Government in the areas of Sustainable Development Goals, improvement of security, environmental sanitation, promotion of human rights and prisons decongestion,” Kallon said.
One year after the Federal Government launched the cleanup of Ogoni, environmental groups and have called on the government to start the actual cleanup.
Environmental Rights Action, Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth Europe made the call on Friday in a joint statement.
The United Nations Environmental Programme had in 2011 called for the cleanup of Ogoniland which had suffered heavy oil pollution over the years after a study of the region.
Although the Federal Government held a ceremony to kick off the cleanup on June 2, 2016, the groups explained that the actual cleanup has not started.
“The government has made some administrative steps – putting in place the governing structures and appointing a coordinator to lead HYPREP, the implementation agency.
“But six years after publication of UNEP’s report, very little meaningful progress has been made to improve the situation, either by the Nigerian Government or by Shell, the main operating company in the area,” the statement read in part.
According to the groups, only one percent of the necessary funds are available as a group of stakeholders has reportedly transferred $10m of the initial $1billion budget required.
They also insisted that despite UNEP’s call, alternative sources of safe drinking water have not been provided for some of the communities with contaminated water wells.
“Six years after the UNEP report the communities of Ogoniland are still unacceptably waiting for action to clean up their land and water,” they said.
“A clear priority should be the immediate delivery of all emergency and priority measures outlined in the UNEP report.”
The groups also called on the government to investigate how its regulators certified four oil spill sites identified by UNEP as clean even though an investigation by Amnesty International found that “extensive visible pollution” still remained there.
The Federal Government has announced the formation of a Hydro-Carbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) to look into the Ogoni land degradation from oil spills.
Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison Madueke at a news conference in Abuja said the project shall implement the recommendations of the United Nations Environment Programme report on Ogoni land as well as investigate, evaluate and establish other hydrocarbon impacted sites.
She assures that With the establishment of this project, all the impacted communities, will cooperate fully with Government and grant unfettered access to all impacted sites to ensure complete success.
She urges community leaders to ensure the effective implementation of the programme.