The Ogoni Land clean-up exercise commenced today, June 2, 2016 in fulfilment of President Buhari’s promise as re-emphasized in his speech on Democracy day-May 29:
“On the Niger Delta, we are committed to implementing the United Nations’ environment programme report and are advancing clean-up operations. I believe the way forward is to take a sustainable approach to address the issues that affect the Delta communities.”
The Ogoni people have been victims of human rights violations for many years. In 1956, four years before Nigerian Independence, Royal Dutch/Shell, in collaboration with the British government, found a commercially viable oil field on the Niger Delta and began oil production in 1958. In a 15-year period from 1976 to 1991, there were reportedly 2,976 oil spills of about 2.1 million barrels of oil in Ogoni land, accounting for about 40% of the total oil spills of the Royal Dutch/Shell Company worldwide.
In a 2011 assessment of over 200 locations in Ogoniland by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), they found that impacts of the 50 years of oil production in the region extended deeper than previously thought. Because of oil spills, oil flaring, and waste discharge, the alluvial soil of the Niger Delta is no longer viable for agricultural.
Furthermore, in many areas that seemed to be unaffected, ground water was found to have high levels of hydrocarbons or contaminated with benzene, a carcinogen, at 900 levels above WHO guidelines.
At the launch, the President was represented by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who stated that the clean-up was not just a restoration of the environment but would be a restoration of families, the people’s wealth, health and everything that is good about the land.
UNEP projects the clean-up exercise might take up to 30 years.
For more information, see here