From Tony John, Port Harcourt
A decade ago, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report recommended cleanup of crude oil-impacted sites in Ogoniland, Rivers State. Recently, an international non-governmental organisation, OilWatch Global Gathering, toured some of the polluted sites to ascertain the environmental situation.
The group, led by the executive director of Home for the Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Nnimmo Bassey, visited the locations of the remediated sites in Alesa Eleme, Bara Alue, Barako, K-Dere, B-Dere, Bodo and Goi communities, in different local government areas in Ogoni, to ascertain the state of the environment.
At the Hydrocarbon Pollution and Remediation Project (HYPREP) water project sites in Eleme, Tai and Gokana LGAs, the information officer of HYPREP, Kpobari Naafoo, said the water stations were part of emergency measures recommended in the UNEP report, which would be a sustained.
Naafoo said: “What we are doing is sustainable package. So, by the time we hand over these water projects to the communities, they will run them. Energy will not be a problem to them, managing it will not be a problem to them. We are not talking about water where people will come to fetch, we are talking about water that is circulated citywide. So, at every point you see pipelines running so that water can be circulated at every point.”
The information officer further stressed that the communities had been sensitized on re-pollution, as any act on it would be detrimental to their environment.
He noted: “Re-pollution is what we are talking about and we have been sensitizing the communities to understand that this environment is theirs. So, re-pollution of this environment is to their detriment.
“We are working with the communities to make sure that those who re-pollute their areas will no longer be business as usual. We are making headway in terms of sensitization to ensure that people don’t go back to re-pollution where we have worked,” he noted.
Naafoo commended the international organisation for visiting the sites to see what HYPREP had done.
He said: “We have taken them to sites where the cleanup is being done and they are satisfied with what they have seen done by HYPREP. They have come and they have seen for themselves, according to what the UNEP report recommended, being from the upland side before going to the rural areas. They have also seen our water station in Alesa, B-Dere, Barako and so on, showing that work is going on and, very soon, the tap will run. So, I commend them, and HYPREP is impressed.”
In Bodo community, where the flag-off of the Ogoni cleanup was done, the project manager of Giole Global Services, Evidence Enoch, stated that the exercise was a technical cleanup example of how the process has was going on.
Enoch said: “We came out of hydrocarbon pollution that was going on in Bodo community since 2009. We are using different methods of remediation by UNEP report to make sure that the oil is released from the soil and that it is professionally done.
“For us as staff of the project, and with what we have done so far, we have seen the environmental restoration, the soil is clean and, so far, we have commenced the planting of mangroove and we have planted over a 100,000 mangroove trees.”
Moving on to Goi community in Gokana LGA, the traditional ruler of Goi, Mene Eric Dooh, lamented the total neglect of his community by the multi-national oil company behind their predicament. He disclosed that the struggle was inherited.
Dooh lamented: “Goi has been seriously affected by oil pollution. It is the end point of pollution. Goi has suffered a lot from oil pollution. We had serious mangroove forest, but the outbreak of fire engulfing the community led to the sack of our people.
“When my father was battling with Shell, I didn’t know the problem the man was encountering until I took over from my father and started the struggle.”
Going down memory lane, the traditional ruler said all his father’s investments were consumed by fire, as frantic efforts to reach the company were frustrated.
He recalled: “My father had over 30 canoes, a commercial centre. My father had a bakery here, a poultry business. But fire consumed them, everything wasted just like that. The company coming into this place to see the polluted environment yielded no result. They could not talk of alternative means; they only asked my father to leave this place. Efforts to reach the company for discussion met brickwalls. We started to battle with them and we have approached them severally without making headway.”
Mene Dooh further stressed that they wanted the company to restore the community, as the environment was all that mattered to them.
With the court judgement in The Hague, which was delivered on January 29, 2021, the traditional ruler stated that the multi-national oil firm was yet to reach out to them for proper information.
The monarch noted that two of the plaintiffs in the matter had died and one was seriously ill. He said since the verdict was given by the international court, the defendant in the matter has not approached the plaintiffs to discuss the modalities of how to handle the judgement. He wondered if the defendant wanted all of them to die before the court’s ruling would be implemented.
Bassey said Goi community was a peculiar case, as a result of ecosystem and interconnected creeks: “Why Goi community is significant is that Goi does not have an oil drilling well, no fuel station. They don’t have gas flare, they don’t have oil installation, apart from the pipeline that crosses through the streams nearer to Bodo. The oil spill happening here is because their ecosystem and the creeks are interconnected.”
Bassey further explained that Goi community was a prime example of communities surrounded by fire without any oil infrastructure.
“The entire Niger Delta region and host communities are connected either by creeks, rivers and pollution in one area will go to another, whether you like it or not. There are communities that were surrounded by fire without any oil infrastructure and Goi is a prime example of it.”
He called on government to come to the aid of Goi community as they have been neglected.
Bassey appealed: “Goi has been neglected. The UNEP report didn’t mention Goi at all in the equation of this cleanup. You can’t stay here for long and remain healthy because the hydrocarbon is thick in the atmosphere. Goi community needs attention and the government should not wait any further. Whether UNEP mentioned Goi or not, the government should no