It is now clear to all that the Niger Delta is under the siege of all sorts of chemicals affecting plants, animals and humans.
A United States Court reportedly ordered the country’s Chemical Manufacturing Giant, Monsanto pay $289 million in punitive damages to Dewayne Lee Johnson, a school groundskeeper, who got terminal cancer using Roundup, one of the world’s most popular weed killers. It was found that Johnson’s non-Hodgkin Lymphoma was at least partly due to using glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Roundup. Johnson regularly used glyphosate to spray fields while working as a groundskeeper. His doctor testified he is unlikely to live past 2020. The 46-years-old Bay Area resident worked for a California county School system and applied the weed killer up to 30 times per year as part of his pest control responsibilities.
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The verdict drew applause from environmental groups. “Monsanto made Roundup the Oxycontin of pesticides and now the addiction and damage they caused have come home to roost,” said Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group, a U.S. environmental organization that researches toxic chemicals and advocates for corporate accountability.
Johnson’s victory has now forced the Republic of Vietnam to ask Monsanto, a company founded in 1901 in St. Louis Missouri, to pay compensation to the victims of Agent Orange which the company supplied to the U.S. Military during the Vietnam war. The World Health Organisation has since classified glyphosate as ‘probably carcinogenic’.
Agent Orange was a chemical herbicide and defoliant used by the U.S. Military to deprive VietCong guerilla fighters of food and concealment. Chemical Scientists say, Dioxin, a highly toxic element of Agent Orange, has been linked to major health problems such as birth defects, cancers and other deadly diseases. Millions of Vietnamese reportedly still suffer to this day, as deformities are passed down to the offspring of exposed victims including American forces.
The company however notes it was one of nine government contractors who manufactured the chemical for the American Army. Vietnam is not standing alone under the bondage of effects of Chemicals used in whatever form.
A new book, Secret Science, written by UIf Schmidt, Professor of Modern History at the University of Kent, has revealed that four British Cold War Scientific Missions spent a total of around 15 months in Obanagharo, some kilometers north of the town of Warri, in Southern Nigeria, dispersing, and accessing the effects of large quantities of experimental G-series nerve gas weapons between 1945 to 1989. The G-series nerve agents were first developed by the Nazis before and during World War Il. The group includes a substance like saria which attacks the human nervous system causing loss of bodily functions and normally death. Survivors are likely to suffer long-term neurological damage and psychiatric disorders.
The book published on July 9, 2015 by Oxford University Press, says the advantage of the Obanagharo location was that it permitted field trials to be carried out in a tropical environment, far away from Britain or Australia. Schmidt says the extent that local people, including locally employed trial personnel, were affected by the nerve agent is not known. Professor Schmidt’s research highlighted some of the chemical weapons to include zinc, cadmium, sulfide, ultra-fine particles which could harmfully embed in people’s lungs, Bacilusglobigii, regarded to cause food poisoning, eye infection and even septicaemia; pasteurellapestis (now known as versiapestis), that caused plague epidemics in the medieval past; Venezuelan Equine Enceplasltis capable of causing in humans high fever, long term fatigue, headache and occasional death; and the G-series nerve agent used in the Niger Delta area of Warri. Schmidt affirms that historians have so far been unable to find out who did the particularly hazardous work of hand-changing’ the nerve agent artillery shells, mortar bombs and aircraft cluster bombs. Likewise they have not been able to discover the extent to which local Nigerian soils were contaminated or whether nearby villages and schools were affected by any of the toxic clouds that would have been blown across the countryside.
“The government records I’ve been looking at are conspicuously silent on all this,” Ulf Schmidt reportedly said. Officials had clearly good reasons as to why the kind of experiments undertaken in Nigeria were strictly prohibited on the British mainland, which is why the files and photographic records surrounding Britain’s post-war agent testing in Africa were regarded as particularly sensitive,” he said.
Researchers have discovered a concentration of heavy metals like calcium, magnesium, zinc and others in the surface waters of some mangrove creeks in the Niger Delta. Crude oil spillage as a result of oil exploration in the region has compounded the environment and health problems in the region. And because of ceaseless nature of oil operations in the Niger Delta, the environment is growing increasingly uninhabitable. People in the affected areas complain about health issues including breathing problems and skin lesions, many people have lost basic human rights such as access to food, clean water and an ability to work.
On Jan 30, 2013, Dutch Court ruled that Shell is liable for the pollution in Niger Delta. An estimated five to ten percent of Nigeria’s mangrove ecosystem has been wiped out either oil spillage or settlement. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) places the quantity of petroleum jettisoned into the environment yearly as 2,300 cubic meters with an average of 300 individual spills annually.
It is now clear to all that the Niger Delta is under the siege of all sorts of chemicals affecting plants, animals and humans. As the innocent California groundskeeper who got terminal cancer after years of applying Roundup, the popular weed killer as part of his pest control job, so could many innocent Niger Delta citizens be living with all manner of terminal diseases as a result of/ pollution of their environment by chemicals from oil and other sources. In fact, the chemical siege on the Niger Delta recently forced scientists to warn against the use of chemicals in the cleanup of the region’s oil pollution they spread with other strange chemical already on ground and worsen an already bad situation.
Awuru writes from Abuja