Opposition Rises Against Oil Minister’s Role In Clean Up Of Ogoniland

By Abiose Adelaja Adams
Environmentalists and the people of Ogoniland in the Niger Delta region have kicked against the involvement of Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dieziani Alison – Madueke, in the clean up exercise planned by the federal government for polluted Ogoniland.

The opposition arises from the fact that the minister held top management position in Shell Petroleum Development Corporation, accused of being the chief culprit in the pollution of Ogoniland.

After three years of intense pressure from civil society groups and the people of the Niger Delta, the federal government through the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, last week, finally set up a committee to begin the clean-up of the severely polluted Ogoniland.
The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, inaugurated the 14-member committee to propose a focused engagement and implementation plan with clearly defined steps.

The committee is also mandated to advise the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project, HYPREP, advisory council on the manner in which assets and funds for the project may be held and utilised.
However, Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) in a statement issued in Lagos on Wednesday said that the minister’s involvement in the process and the inclusion of HYPREP in the exercise clearly makes a mockery of the demands of the Ogoni and civil society groups as clearly spelt out in the UNEP report.

It would be recalled that the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, released a report in 2011 that raised serious alarm over pollution of Ogoniland. The report listed infertility, infant and maternal mortality, diabetes, cancer, stroke, blindness, respiratory diseases and shortened life expectancy among others as direct consequences of the pollution.

It warns that any delay in cleaning up an oil spill leads to oil being washed away, traversing farmland and almost always ending up in the creeks killing plant life, which is already a routine observation in Ogoniland.

Three years after, the government had carried out no implementation based on UNEP’s recommendation until this current attempt.

But a lot of dust is being raised about Alison – Madueke being in charge of the clean up process.

“We strongly affirm that Shell has hijacked this process through the Minister of Petroleum. The involvement of the same minister who has left out vocal groups that have demanded that Shell be made to take full responsibility of the Ogoni pollution which can best be categorized as ecocide, “ says Godwin Ojo, Executive Director ERA.
ERA believes that the minister’s involvement in the clean-up is wrong since she had held top management positions in the company for several years until her appointment into the federal cabinet in 2007.

They also believe that Shell cannot be sincere in the clean-up given that it is the major polluter. Significantly, a paragraph in the executive summary of the UNEP report and civil society groups readily point that out.

“Ten out of the 15 investigated sites which SPDC records show as having completed remediation, still have pollution exceeding the SPDC (and government) remediation closure values,” the report disclosed.
ERA’s recommendation is that, an independent third party should be responsible for the management of such clean up funds through the Federal Ministry of Environment in conjunction with the National Oil Spills Detection and Remediation Agency, NOSDRA, which has the statutory oversight function on oil spills clean up and remediation.

Ojo also pointed out the ineffective role of HYPREP in the clean up exercise.

“We have said it time and again that HYPREP being an administrative unit under the petroleum ministry has no role in the clean-up of Ogoniland.”

Lending their voice to the issue, affected women from Ogoniland under the aegis of Network of Ogoni Women Ecological Defenders, have also condemned the attempt to side-track the UNEP recommendations by establishing HYPREP without any legal backing and without a clear mandate instead of establishing an Ogoni Environmental Restoration Authority and a matching fund.

“We want HYPREP scrapped and we want an Ogoni Environment Restoration Authority. We want an Ogoni Environment Restoration Fund as well as a Centre of Excellence for environmental monitoring and remediation,” the women stated in a communique issued at the end of a two-day workshop organized by the Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Environment, last August.

Their other demands include an end to contamination, the immediate provision of safe drinking water in all impacted communities, the creation of employment opportunities and establishment of a specialist health institution in Ogoniland to address the health impacts of the pollution in the land.

They also demanded that oil in Ogoniland should remain under the ground while compensation is paid for harm suffered by the people.

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