Federal Government Considering Ogoni Clean Up
The federal government is considering taking over the responsibility for cleaning up Ogoniland in Rivers
State, where oil spills from exploration by Shell Petroleum Development Corporation has damaged the
ecosystem. Government’s offer to clean up the environment came on the heels of the submission of the
report of the Presidential Committee on Environmental, Survey and Clean-up of Ogoniland to President
Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday. Most Rev. Fr. Hassan Mathew Kukah headed the committee.
Minister of the Environment, Hajiya Hadiza Mailafiya, said in Abuja Saturday that the government was
prepared to handle the implementation of the report and the cleaning up of Ogoniland.
The minister, during a visit to the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, said the organisation
would be responsible for the exercise, but she was not specific in what capacity.
“With the release of the report on oil pollution in Ogoniland, it is the responsibility of NOSDRA to handle
such reasonability. “The case of Ogoni is an international case; we have to look at the report, it was just
submitted to Mr. President, until we look at the report, it will be pre-emptive to say more,” she added.
The presidential committee, which carried out its assignment in conjunction with the United Nations
Environment Programme, had indicted the federal government and SPDC over the oil spill.
According to the report, Nigeria will require N150 billion ($1 billion) to decontaminate the area.
The minister said given the magnitude of the problem, government would not hesitate to seek the assistance
of the international community, adding, “When we look at the report and its implementation commences, we
would as well seek the support of the United Nations.”
According to the NOSDRA Director General, Peter Idabor, though government is yet to study the report,
findings from it indicate that “most of Ogoni soil has been contaminated due to the decay of the clay layer,
which is now discontinuous, that is why the oil got as deep as five feet.”
He said the agency would collaborate with other agencies in the provision of alternative sources of drinking
water for the people. President Goodluck Jonathan who received the report of the committee in Abuja
declared that oil pollution is worse than a civil war and appealed to the UN to come to the aid of Nigeria.
The setting up of the committee is a fall-out of persistent agitation by Ogoni activists who launched a
campaign to bring global attention to the environmental degradation of their area.
The committee said all samples taken from the air, water and soil in over 200 locations in the area showed
that hydrocarbon materials had percolated the area, making it unsafe for human habitation.
The report showed that while it could take up to five years to clean up individual lands in Ogoni, it might take
up to 30 years to clean up the rest of the area.
Jonathan sought the UN’s assistance, both in material and human resources, to clean up the area to avoid
an imminent global catastrophe in Nigeria.
Although he was worried about how the country and Shell could source the N150 billion needed to clean
up the area, he said the required expertise for a successful clean up was much more crucial to ensure the
success of the exercise.
A British High Court has already ordered Shell to pay £250 million as compensation to some communities in
Ogoniland for the losses they suffered after two spills in the area.
The court gave the judgment in a class action suit filed by the Bodo community in the Niger Delta against
Royal Dutch Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary, SPDC.