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Enough of Motion Without Movement – Clean up Ogoniland now
Opening Remarks by Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) during the press briefing to mark one year of flag-off of Ogoni clean up exercise by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration held at Aldgate Hotel, Port Harcourt, August 3, 2017.
Gentleman and ladies of the press I want to use this medium to commend you all for your consistency which has ensured that not only the plight of the Ogoni remain in the public space, but also the drama that has characterized the cleanup exercise flagged off in June 2016.
On August 4, 2011 (exactly six years ago), the Nigerian government received the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Assessment report on Ogoniland. The report x-rayed the Ogoni environment – land, vegetation and water, and came out with damning findings on how Shell callously ruined the environment and livelihoods of the people. Notably, benzene a cancer causing chemical was found in drinking water 900 times above WHO standards, and soil contamination was found over the depth of five meters in places claimed to have been cleaned up by Shell.
Most of you know the story, including the cosmetic complacency and lip service past administration paid to the cleanup process. It was only in 2015 that any semblance of action began with President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval of a $10 million grant for commencement of the clean up of Shell’s mess in Ogoniland.
The flag off of the clean-up proper was in June 2016 and the exercise was performed by Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo. Though the people greeted the event with joy, they are now disappointed that the road to justice is still bugged down with bottlenecks and meaningless bureaucracies.
The unease of the Ogoni people has been further heightened by statements credited to the minister of state for environment that government was not in a hurry to commence clean up and fail, and would rather take its time to get it right before commencing. The recourse to such lame excuse for the delayed commencement shows that government is yet to grasp the challenges the Ogoni communities face and the need for deliberate speed in the cleanup process to protect the environment and rural livelihoods of the people.
One year after the flag-off exercise, the relief measures and clean water supply to the impacted communities have not been carried out meaningfully. The communities are yet to get a breather as the polluted soils, blackened waters and foul-smelling mangroves remained. In Ogale –one among the many documented impacted communities, the locals are left with no other source of water than contaminated boreholes. Here, immediately the taps are turned on, noxious odour and smell of petroleum assail the nose and hang thickly in the air. The situation is so bad that a stroke of match could ignite a fire. Residents depend on the polluted water source or forced to expend a fortune on water from vendors. The situation is so bad that that many are asking: When will the pre-clean up measures be put in place? When will a drop of oil be cleaned in Ogoni?
Even with all these tales of woe, the polluter – Shell – has continued with business-as-usual. Shell has failed to properly decommission its corrosive oil facilities in Ogoni as recommended by UNEP. We have said it time and again that decommissioning of Shell’s facilities should be the first step as it would stop the continuous oil spills from ill-maintained pipelines in the Ogoni environment. Added to this, are reports that the oil company has not stopped engaging in divisive activities to split the agitating youths.
In light of the above it is worrisome that even with the governing structures already in place, there is still no phased workplan covering 1-5 years in the short term. In the long term, a phased workplan covering the entire clean up process that will take 25 years should be put in place. Transparency and accountability demand that Workplan should be put in place before public advertisement to hiring of contractors. There is little or no CSOs engagement on the process. Critical stakeholders and community members have been sidelined and have not been invited to make input. Clearly, when the clean up proper will commence or when equipment will be deployed to site is still up in the air. Cumulatively, these foot-dragging activities have further lengthened the period for which the people have to wait for justice to come. Notwithstanding President Muhammadu Buhari’s seemingly good intentions, there is gross inadequate funding and only US$10 million has been released from the US$200 million pledged by Shell and the federal government of Nigeria for the 2017 fiscal year. Furthermore, there is no statutory budgetary provision for the clean up in the 2017 national budget. We condemn in strong terms the piecemeal approach to the clean up planning and implementation process by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) and the “snail pace” approach of the federal government that is motion without movement.
In particular, the UNEP report indictment of Shell for the company’s deployment of a one size fits all clean up measures through the Remediation by Enhanced Natural Attenuation (RENA) technologies that is widely used by Shell in Nigeria. Rather the UNEP report had recommended site-specific remediation measures that require soil excavation, and overlaying by new sediments. The report said that RENA is inappropriate because of the proximity of communities to spill sites or degraded areas, shallow aquifer and heavy and lengthy periods of rainfall.
That Shell sits comfortably in the Governing Board with oversight functions wielding undue political and financial influence may have already compromised the cleanup process hence we call for their immediate removal from such governmental institutions.
As we mark two years of the flag off exercise, ERA-led coalition of civil society groups and Host Communities (HoCON) join voices with the Ogoni people to insist that, so far, the Ogonis have been short-changed and no justice in sight. They join their voices to ask: “When will the Ogonis get justice? When will the first drop of oil be cleaned up in Ogoni?” Justice delayed is justice denied.
The UNEP recommendations and clean up is non-negotiable. Clean up should commence without further delay and to serve as prelude to a comprehensive environmental and social audit of the entire Niger Delta and other impacted regions. We urge the federal government and Shell and the other transnational oil companies to establish a US$100 billion restoration fund for the clean up and remediation of the entire region.
- The federal government should declare the Ogoni clean up as environmental state of emergency and channel resources to it so that clean up will commence immediately. No more delays, clean up now.
- HYPREP should put in place a definite workplan and timeline for the clean up process through an inclusive planning process that accommodates input from stakeholders.
- Shell and the federal government should be compelled to commit fully to funding the clean-up costs, including but not limited to, the initial fund of $1 billion. They should declare their contributions for the year 2017 and pledges for 2018.
- The National Oil Spills Detection and Remediation Agency (NOSDRA) and other government agencies being starved of funds and roles in the clean up process should be empowered to monitor the process.
- Shell should not force HYPREP to use RENA technologies that is inappropriate to the Ogoni environment.
- Shell should not use the clean up process as a guise to re-entering Ogoni oil fields for drilling. They should vacate the governing council, and decommission its old oil pipelines responsible for frequent oil spills.
- Conduct an environmental and social audit of the Niger Delta and ensure the establishment of $100 billion remediation fund to be funded by Shell and all the oil companies operating in the region.
Once again, welcome, and thank you for listening.
We urge you to support us in adding more voices to our struggle against large-scale industrial oil palm plantations by Okomu Oil Palm PLC (a member of the global SOCFIN).
After successful protest marches on the streets of Edo State where Okomu Oil Palm has operational base, anti-land grab campaigners led by the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) are are writing to the Edo State Government to stop Okomu from further land grabbing for industrial agro commodities business in the name of development.
We are contacting you to support our e-action to Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State asking him to enforce the revocation order of 13,750 hectares of illegally acquired land in Owan and Okomu Forest Reserves by Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc.
Governor Godwin Obaseki cares about his image at the international level particularly as he brands himself as an investor-driven Governor at the detriment of local communities and livelihoods with differentiated impacts on women.
Support our petition as we internationalize our struggles against deforestation and corporate land grabs for large-scale oil palm plantation business.
Okomu Oil Palm Plc is fighting back so your support is key as we make this final push
Two things you can do:
- Sign on to the petition below calling on the Edo State Governor to enforce its revocation order of 13,750 hectares of de-reserved land by ensuring that Okomu Oil Palm PLC vacates the area and stop oil palm plantation business in the area.
- Share the petition with others for sign on as we look forward to one million signatories.
Uphold Edo State Government Revocation Order on Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc
Read the petition
Introduction: Bayelsa State presents one of the most deltaic scenarios in the Niger Delta in terms of geology or geography. There are no high grounds, which makes communities in the state susceptible to sea level rise and other Climate Change fallouts. It has a topography that is low-lying, with several natural water channels, swamps, creeks and rivers that empty into the Atlantic Ocean. Experts in the field of Survey have observed that the gradient of the environment remains the same even for distances running into kilometers. Experts document that some of the communities are below sea level, predisposing them to flooding whenever it rains.
The impacts of the floods in June 2017 necessitated a visit by ERA/FoEN field monitors to Epie/Atissa and communities around Yenagoa that suffer flooding as a result of physical structures conceived without Environmental Impact Assessment [EIA] or recourse to safety.
The ERA/FoEN team, while observing some natural water channels within the communities, documented the testimonies of the locals.FIELD REPORT #384 - How Poor Town Planning Aggravates Bayelsa Flooding
Introduction: Lagos received another bout of the climate change phenomenon with unusually heavy rains in the month of July 2017. The downpour between 5-8 July resulted in the flooding of many parts of Lagos with Ikoyi, Lekki, Victoria Island and the Ajah axis witnessing the most severe inundation of homes and business properties.
From Ahmadu Bello Way near the former Bar Beach to Lekki Phase 1 and extending to Ajah and adjourning communities, residents were trapped as the raging waters took over entire streets, cut off others, inundated cars and other valuable property, and surged into their homes.FIELD REPORT #383 - Environmental, Social and Health Impacts of Lagos Floods
Field Report #380: Okomu Oil Palm PLC, Clears Forest, Farmlands for Industrial Agro Business in Edo State.
Introduction: The field monitoring exercise was aimed at getting first hand information from communities that are directly impacted by the activities of Okomu Oil Palm Company PLC which cuts across three Local Government regions of Edo State. They include Ovia South West with their operational head office at Udo (See earlier field report on their activities in Ovia South West); Ovia North East Local Government area and Uhunmwode Local Government area. The three region where the company is operational is home to Okomu Forest Reserve, Okomu National Park, Ehor Forest Reserve and Owan Forest Reserve with rich biological diversity of plant and animal species.Field_Report_on_Okomu_Activities_in _Edo State
The current recession that Nigeria has plunged head-long into as a result of the slump in international oil price, is indicative of faulty policies and mismanagement of the oil wealth with the result being: We have now come to a point where only a well thought-out and drastic policy can stave off an imminent revolution.
This policy can only come in the way of a National Basic Income Scheme (NaBIS) for the poor and vulnerable groups to address the widening gap of inequalities in Nigeria through a national wealth redistribution system that will ensure a monthly stipend to all unemployed Nigerians which the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) is proposing.
ERA/FoEN made the proposal at a National Social Security Expert Group Meeting held in Abuja with funding from Friends of the Earth Norway.
ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Ojo explained that ERA/FoEN in 2013 proposed this scheme on the basis that Nigeria is one of the countries in the world where the gap of inequality is highest with over 68 million out of the nearly 170 million Nigerians unemployed and living on less than two dollars per day. Millions, he noted, go to bed hungry.
To fund the initiative, Ojo first cited official figures from the Bureau of Statistics which recorded that Nigeria earned N48.4 trillion between 2000-2011, and N8.8 trillion in 2011 from oil wealth hence the nation can afford a minimum Basic Income Stipend of about N10,000 exclusively to the poor and unemployed to halt a decline towards a political class economy.
He recommended a progressive tax of 1% on monthly income of N500,000, sensitisation of policy makers on potential sources of funding, such as reduction of the cost of legislation through the adoption of part-time involvement of legislators instead of the current full-time involvement. Others are significant reduction in the earnings of political office holders in terms of Security Vote for the executives, national assembly members and other political office holders at the national and state levels, among others.
Participants in the workshop included: Senator Fatai Buhari representing Oyo North Senatorial District who agreed with the initiative and expressed willingness to support it. Others are Hon. Wale Okediran, a National Assembly consultant, Hon. Uche Unyeagucha, Hon. Bakura Lawan, among others.
Representatives of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the academia were in attendance.
By UN estimates, Nigeria will be one of the countries responsible for most of the world’s total population increase by 2050. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and the 9th most populous country in the world. With an estimated population of 170 million, one in every five Africans is a Nigerian. The country has been undergoing explosive population growth and has one of the highest growth and fertility rates in the world.
Growing youth demography, in the context of developing nations, represents a once in a lifetime opportunity for locally led economic growth which can secure a prosperous future for some of the world’s poorest people but sadly in Africa, youth unemployment has become a threat to socio-economic peace and stability. Records have it that the unemployment rate in Nigeria for the year 2011 stood at 23.9 percent with youth unemployment rate at over 50 percent. Surely today, the figure has risen far beyond this estimate.
ERA/FoEN advocates for the empowerment of rural community dwellers whose sources of livelihood have been seriously impacted through massive pollution from extractive activities by oil companies in the Niger Delta, and other environmentally-degrading impacts in other regions of the country. ERA/FoEN believes that the present insecurity challenges engendered by unemployment in the country can be curbed when the needs of the voiceless are addressed.
Rationale for National Basic Income
There are ethical, legal, religious, economic and sociocultural justifications for national basic income. This underscores the relevance of the national social security scheme in any state because the underlying philosophy of social security is to ensure a minimum level of material living to the needy or helpless ones of the society from the government.
A cardinal objective and directive principle which underpins the policy of the Nigerian government towards its people encompass “security and welfare of the people”. This lofty idea is entrenched in Chapter II, Article 14, subsection 2b of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and declared as the primary purpose of Government. Thus, National Basic Income, which is a social security strategy, is a statutory responsibility of the federal government.
Social security is a shared care arrangement designed to meet conditions of insecurity due to either deprivations or contingencies. The objective of a social security scheme is to ensure that the vulnerable in the society receive the necessary assistance required to make them comfortable. By empowering the citizens, the authorities are also preparing them to stimulate economic activities through their spending since a high household marginal propensity to consume is critical to the enhancement of the national income via the income multiplier effect. The environment stands to benefit from relieving pressure on nature and environmental resources.
The current spate of youth restiveness and insurgencies can be significantly reduced if the federal government takes a bold step to implement significant social security measures, especially the national basic income scheme. The major policy implications of such a scheme to various stakeholders include, but not limited to increased household spending and the attendant multiplier effect, need for managerial commitment to employee welfare, industrial unions’ commitment to the private sector’s protection of their employees, etc.
Nigeria has not been totally social security blind. Some of the attempts made by the federal government of Nigeria in providing social security in the past include Udoji Public Service Review Commission – 1974; Workmen compensation scheme, 1987 – 2011; Pension scheme; 1954 – 2004; Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2004; 2014; Employee Compensation Act (ECA) 2010; etc. In recent times, some state governments such as former Governor of Ekiti state Governor Fayemi, and his Ondo state counterpart paid N5,000 to aged people that were 60 years and above. How many of such practices can we point to in Nigeria and what lessons can we learn from them? In particular, the Ekiti social security example was supported by a legislative backing to allow for continuity. But is this the case at the moment or the project has been jettisoned? What other examples can we draw from?
Proposed Strategy for Income Redistribution
A publication in The Vanguard Newspaper (Monday, 5th September, 2016 edition) indicates that the total annual salaries of 469 national legislators (senators and House of representative members) is about N4, 834,032,493. This amount can pay about 40,284 unemployed Nigerian citizens the National Basic Income of N10, 000 for one year.
If we consider the earnings of the state legislators and those of the ministers (Junior and senior) as well as the local government chairmen and vice chairmen, the councilors in the approximately seven hundred and seventy local government areas in the country; the special advisers at the national and state levels; as well as the secretary to the state governments and local governments, then the undisclosed security votes at the state and national levels by those in power, then we will begin to realise how much we can salvage for the national basic income. A purposeful progressive income taxation should also be explored.
Some strategies/ideas to consider
- A progressive tax of 1% on monthly income of N500,000. (How is this realistic with the current tax system? How many people could be in this bracket? And what monetary projections can be derived from such calculations?)
- Sensitisation of policy makers on potential sources of funding, such as reduction of the cost of legislation through the adoption of part-time involvement of legislators instead of the current full-time involvement
- Significant reduction in the earnings of political office holders in terms of Security Vote for the executives, national assembly members and other political office holders at the national and state levels
- The adoption of unicameral legislature instead of the current bicameral system;
- Establishment of an institutional framework for the scheme to ensure a successful implementation of the national basic income scheme. In this regard, the following should be provided:
i. A legislative backing from the national assembly to support Executive Order or gazette.
ii. Biometric Verification, to ensure that only qualified citizens’ benefit from the scheme;
iii. National identity card, to ensure that every person’s unique identity is secured and procedures should be put in place to make the exercise continuous
iv. A comprehensive database of all employed people to enable easy verification of their employment status
v. A comprehensive database of all unemployed people with the individuals’ biometrics and national identity card numbers that can be used to verify their unemployment status by logging online with the appropriate details at any given time.
vi. An electronic database of all unemployed and aged people to make it easy for government to determine the proportion of aged people that should be included in the National basic income scheme
6. Stipulation of Penalties for Potential Abuses and Multiple Registration to serve as a deterrent to people who may want to indulge in frivolous acts. Such penalties should include blacklisting, forfeiting of any benefits associated with the database and possible jail terms of at least three years with hard labour.
The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has described Lagos State government’s establishment of special courts to prosecute individuals it ascribed to as illegal water service providers as a cover for promoting water privatization.
ERA/FoEN position is coming on the heels of media reports which indicated that Dr. Babatunde Adejare, commissioner for environment, announced the introduction of the courts at a two-day retreat organised for officials of the water sector, which had as theme: ‘Towards achieving a safe and sustainable water sector in Lagos State’.
Adejare who was represented by Babatunde Hunpe, special adviser to the governor on the environment dismissed reports that the state planned to privatize water but surprisingly added that a ‘public-private partnership’ is necessary. He also said the state government is not pleased with giving bail-outs to the Lagos State Water Corporation (LSWC) because of no- payment of water bills by water consumers.
But in a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN said the establishment of the water courts is an “unacceptable” violation of the rights of Lagos citizens to water and has no legal backing anywhere in Nigeria.
ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “We find this development totally absurd. Criminalizing the right of people to source for water when government has consistently failed to live up to its responsibility is simply scape-goating and passing the buck. There is no edict existing or in the works that allows any state government to set up a court for punishing anyone who has decided to provide water to his neighbor free”
“In the layman’s understanding, what this means is that anybody in our communities that carries a jerry-can of water from one house to the other is going to be accused of violating the law and sent to jail. This is absolutely disturbing”
Oluwafemi frowned at references to already budgeted and appropriated funds to the LSWC as bail out, insisting that Adejare’s description of appropriated funds as rescue connotes that the state government has converted the Corporation into a private enterprise whose statutory due in the state budget is now called bail-out.
The ERA/FoEN boss pointed out that it is offensive that the Lagos State government is using its resources to establish a “special court,” round up people attempting to provide people with an essential human need, and prosecute them, even as he added that Lagosians are not the problem that need to be solved.
“The proper move for the state government would be to require invest financial resources in strengthening the public water system so more people have access to water. After all, of what use is government if it is not protecting basic human rights, like water? What Adejare calls an undesirable “bail-out” is in fact the proper role and responsibility of government.”
He stressed that the Our Water, Our Right Campaigners who have staged various protests across the state to reject water privatization reject the water courts and still remain resolute in rejecting all forms of water privatization, semi-water privatization or so called Public Private Partnerships.
“What Lagos residents have consistently asked for and will not negotiate is informed and active participation in developing plans to achieve universal access to clean water. The solution remains within the realm of public control. We are unequivocal that the so-called water courts are a gross violation of our right to life”, he insisted.
President Muhammed Buhari has reaffirmed his administration commitment to the clean-up of Ogoniland in Rivers State.
President Buhari speaking at the inauguration of the governing council and board on Thursday for the clean-up at the Presidential Villa, Abuja asked for the communities cooperation as they kick off the recommendation of UNEP.
However, a coalition of civil society organization led by , Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria(ERA/FoEN) has called on President Muhammed Buhari to put in place a gazette or law to ensure the process is institutionalized and sustained beyond his administration.
The group in a meeting with the theme Monitoring Agenda for the Implementation of the UNEP report cleanup of Ogoniland in Portharcourt, Rivers State yesterday also said that the present administration should wean itself of fossil fuels dependency and halt all forms of pollution by the oil industry in the Niger Delta by enforcing the deadline for the cessation of gas flaring and exploring safe renewables.