Quote from Frantz Fanon: “Posterity will not forgive those, who, possessing the exceptional privilege of being able to speak the word of truth to their oppression take refuge in cold complacency and mute indifference”.
According to Amnesty International, ‘thousands of lives have been wrecked by the toxic legacy of Gas Flaring and Oil Spills’. The Oil Spill and Gas Flare phenomenon within the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria is a ‘catastrophic-crescendo’ that has not been given, thorough thought and tact resulting in frivolous attention and feeble action, amongst the Indigenous people of the Niger Delta, their Traditional Institutions and the critical Mass of their general public, despite conscientious and daring efforts by patriotic individuals, Academic community, Civil Society Organisations (especially in the Environmental Rights Action, Protection and Preservation gene – in the likes of Environmental Rights Actions/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, etc) – foreign and locals.
Voices of protests trailing the catastrophic devastation of Oil spillages and Gas flaring, especially in the Niger Delta need to be re-echoed again and again to prick our conscience to do the needful before it gets terribly too late! Some of these voices of protests chronicled in the May 30, 2010, edition of Guardian – Observer by Environment editor, John Vidal, are captured thus:
“We lost our nets, huts and fishing ports … this is where we fished and farmed. We have lost our forest. We told Shell of the spill within days, but they did nothing for six months” – Chief Promise, village leader of Otuegwe.
“We are faced with incessant oil spills from rusty pipes, some of which are 40 years old” – Bonny Otavie, a Bayelsa MP
“Oil companies do not value our lives; they want us to all die. In the past two years, we have experienced 10 oil spills and fishermen can no longer sustain their families. It is not tolerable” – Williams Mkpa, a community leader in Ibeno.
“If this Gulf accident had happened in Nigeria, neither the government nor the company would have paid much attention…. this kind of spill happens all the time in the delta. The oil companies just ignore it! The lawmakers do not care and people must live with pollution daily! The situation is now worse than it was 30 years ago. Nothing is changing! When I see the efforts that are being made in the US, I feel a great sense of sadness at the double standards. What they do in the US or in Europe is very different.” – Ben Ikari, a member of the Ogoni people.
“We see frantic efforts being made to stop the spill in the US…. But in Nigeria, Oil companies largely ignore their spills, cover them up and destroy people’s livelihood and environments. The Gulf spill can be seen as a metaphor for what is happening daily in the oilfields of Nigeria and other parts of Africa. This has gone on for 50 years in Nigeria. People depend completely on the environment for their drinking water and farming and fishing. They are amazed that the president of the US can be making speeches daily because in Nigeria people there would not hear a whimper” – Nnimo Bassey, Nigerian Head of Friends of the Earth International.
“The response to the spill in the United State should serve as a stiff reminder as to how far spill management in Nigeria has drifted from standards across the world” –A Spokesman for the Stakeholder Democracy Network, Lagos.
“Deepwater Horizon may have exceeded Exxon Valdez, but within few years in Nigeria, offshore spills from four locations dwarfed the scale of the Exxon Valdez disaster many times over. Estimates put spill volumes in the Niger Delta among the worst on the planet, but they do not include the crude oil from wastewater and gas flares. Companies such as Shell, continue to avoid independent monitoring and keep key data secret” – Ben Amunwa, an Activist of a London-based Oil Watch Group, Platform.
‘One report compiled by WWF UK, the World Conservation Union, Representatives from the Nigerian Federal Government and the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, calculated in 2006 that up to 1.5m tons of oil – 50 times the pollution unleashed in the Exxon Valdez tanker disaster in Alaska – has been spilled in the Niger Delta over the past half-century. Last year Amnesty calculated that the equivalent of at least 9m barrels of oil was spilled and accused the oil companies of a human rights outrage.’
From the inaccurate data pool of Oil spillages and Gas Flaring, we extracted the following, from:
“…an estimate by the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Environment, a total of 13 million barrels of oil has been lost in more than 10,000 incidents since the start of oil production in 1958. The number of incidents is increasing; the former long term annual average (220 to 250 spills per year), has recently accelerated to numbers exceeding 500 spills per year.” – Langeveld, W. A, et al (2014), pg 4.
In the same report by Langeveld, W. A, et al (2014, pg. 31), the oil spill estimates from 1976 – 2012, as revealed by different sources, most of which authenticated by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) stood at:
- 4,647 spills incidents recorded, averaging 232 incidents/year, between 1976 – 1996
- 2,097 spills incidents recorded, averaging 419 incidents/year, between 1997 – 2001
- 6,817 spills incidents recorded, averaging 273 incidents/year, between 1976 – 2005
- 9,107 spills incidents recorded, averaging 314 incidents/year, between 1976 – 2005
- 4,835 spills incidents recorded, averaging 242 incidents/year, between 1976 – 1996
- 4,647 spills incidents recorded, averaging 221 incidents/year, between 1976 – 1996
- 2,405 spills incidents recorded, averaging 534 incidents/year, between 2006 – 2010
- 3,291 spills incidents recorded, averaging 549 incidents/year, between 2007 – 2012
As a way further stating the incidents of oil spillages in the Niger Delta, excerpts from October 24, 2008 edition of ‘Niger Delta Today’ (a WordPress.com weblog) by Dr. Nwilo, P. C. et al, the following data was milled:
- 5,724 spills incidents accounting for over 2,571,113.09 barrels of oil between 1976 – 1998
- 4,835 spills incidents accounting for over 2.4 million barrels of oil between 1976 – 1996
- 6,817 spills incidents accounting for over 3 million barrels of oil between 1976 – 2001
- NNPC places the quantity of petroleum jettisoned into the environment yearly at 2,300 cubic metres with an average of 300 individual spills annually.
- ‘However, because this amount does not take into account “minor” spills, the World Bank argues that the true quantity of petroleum spill out into the environment could be as much as ten times the officially claimed amount. As further reported in 1980, Texaco offshore station blowout spilled estimated 400,000 barrels (64,000m3) into the Gulf of Guinea and Royal Dutch Shell’s Forcados Terminal (in Delta State, Nigeria) tank failure spilled estimate 580,000 barrels (93,000m3).
- Furthermore, in 2010, Baird reported that between 9m -13m barrels have been spilled in the Niger Delta since 1958.
Petroleum, Pollution, and Poverty in the Niger Delta
The Niger Delta is one of the 10 most important wetland and coastal marine ecosystems in the world. Oil has generated an estimated $600 billion since the 1960s.
Despite this, the majority of the Niger Delta’s population live in poverty. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) describes the region as suffering from “administrative neglect, crumbling social infrastructure and services, high unemployment, social deprivation, abject poverty, filth and squalor, and endemic conflict.” The majority of the people of the Niger Delta do not have adequate access to clean water or health-care. Their poverty, in contrast with the wealth generated by oil, has become one of the world’s starkest and most disturbing examples of the “resource curse”.
For the people of the Niger Delta, environmental quality and sustainability are fundamental to their overall well-being and development. According to UNDP, more than 60 percent of the people in the region depends on the natural environment for their livelihood. For many, the environmental resource base, which they use for agriculture, fishing and the collection of forest products, is their principal or sole source of food. Pollution and environmental damage, therefore, pose significant risks to human rights.© AI An Amnesty International mission delegate’s fingers covered in oil from an oil spill at Ikarama, Bayelsa State. This photograph was taken eight months after the spill by Amnesty International researchers. There are often long delays in clearing up after oil spills in the Niger Delta.
According to a study carried out by a team of Nigerian and international environmental experts in 2006, the Niger Delta is “one of the world’s most severely petroleum-impacted ecosystems”. They stated: “The damage from oil operations is chronic and cumulative, and has acted synergistically with other sources of environmental stress to result in a severely impaired coastal ecosystem and compromised the livelihoods and health of the region’s impoverished residents.”
The Niger Delta has suffered for decades from oil spills, which occur both on land and offshore. Oil spills on land destroy crops and damage the quality and productivity of soil that communities use for farming. Oil in water damages fisheries and contaminates water that people use for drinking and other domestic purposes – more that have the flora, fauna and birds are seriously endangered. Sadly, more than 318 hectares of mangroves have been depleted making it the worst place on earth with is kind of statistics resulting from anthropogenic activities mostly related to Oil and Gas exploitation.
There are a number of reasons why oil spills happen so frequently in the Niger Delta. Spills result from corrosion of oil pipes, poor maintenance of infrastructure, spills or leaks during processing at refineries, human error and as a consequence of deliberate vandalism or theft of oil.
Additionally, at the request of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, UNEP conducted an independent assessment of the environmental and public health impacts of oil contamination in Ogoniland, in the Niger Delta, and options for remediation. UNEP’s Disasters and Conflicts Programme seeks to minimize environmental threats to human well-being from the environmental causes and consequences of conflicts and disasters, by United Nations Environment Programme Disasters and Conflicts Sub-Programme. Refer to www.unep.org/disastersandconflicts and https://www.flickr.com/photos/unep_dc/sets/72157633111528564.
In the light of the dire realities of the COLLATERAL BURDEN highlighted – from the acts of a new wave of Eco-terrorism unleashed on our commonwealth and heritage, in a manner that threaten the well been of our posterity, defy our identity as a people and affront our resolve to preserve, protect and defend our territorial integrity. It is now, as it would have been, imperative to release this EARNEST AND URGENT CLARION CALL!
This is a call:
- To all our Traditional Institutions, across the length, breadth, height and depth of the Niger Delta to RE-ENACT their respective authorities, instrument and processes of litigation, adjudication and consensus by invoking the deities of their oracles (presumably possibly) according to their socio-political and socio-cultural mythology, to demonstrate retributive influences and interferences to protect and preserve against the continuous repugnant exploitation of our natural resources, less we jeopardise the present and future existence of our diverse ethnic nationalities of the Niger Delta.
- To all the vessels of honour, carriers of the Marketplace Apostolic Mantle and stewards of the Oracles of God to intercept the unbridled ‘great transgression’ of the mercenary Entreprise, hypocritically ravaging our patrimonial asset.
- On all True Patriots – native and modern – to awake the potential of their expertise, experience and empathy to boldly stand-up with facts, figures and truth in the fashion of Intellectual militancy against the crop of militants who have corrupted, adulterated and depravedly perverted the Niger Delta struggle with iconic, chronic and shameless opportunism and brazen adventurism – a painfully disgraceful betrayal of the faith and hope of ‘our heroes past’
- For all the Niger Delta intelligentsia who possess military and espionage orientation to deploy their resources and counteract these horde of mercenaries festering and feasting on our generational wealth for their private, selfish and hedonistic interest. Let every Ahmed, Oritse, Tamuno, Chukwu, Bassey and Oluwatosin stand-up, speak-up and take subtle and substantive confrontation against any form of human right abuses, extra-judicial attacks and unlawful acts of violence on our lives, properties and ecosystem, in the name of fighting for the Niger Delta cause
For over fifty (50) gruelling years, we, as a people have paid a huge price and made enormous sacrifice of our territorial well-being to the Oil and Gas business of the Nigerian economy – yet our economic life is fraught in abysmal and deplorable conditions, a burden we no longer wish to bear. Hence, we call for:
- Official declaration of a state of emergency and locked-down on the Petroleum Industry until further notice. All creative resource should be galvanised through a Marshal plan for their emergency development.
- For all Royal Majesties, Paramount Rulers, Chiefs, Priest of our native shrines to be held liable of the security breaches which emanates from any form of civil agitation and pseudo-military appraisals within their respective domains.
- All youths, women and community leaderships should be endorsed by the prescriptions of the instruments of authority of their respective jurisdictions – so as to avoid the impostor fashion traded by the so call Niger Delta agitator.
- Full implementation of the recommendations of the PANDEF, National Conference, NDDC Master Plan, NEEDS, SEEDS and LEEDS. Additionally, we invoke the recommendation of the Ango Abudullahi, et al panel for the establishment of ultra-modern Youth Information Centres in all 774 Local Government Areas of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to provide the networking backbone of the Basic Registry Information Systems In Nigeria (BRISIN – being the infrastructural provision to implementing the Universal Access to Information Protocol of the UN) in all the over 9,400 Political Wards across the country
- Full enforcement of the Gas Flare cut protocol and its associated International and Regional convention and declarations in Nigeria.
- Realistic and functional implementation of the Compulsory Adult Education under the Mass Literacy Programme – where it becomes punishable for one not to have basic education.
- Standardised regulation and implementation of the Artisanship, Entrepreneurship and Agro-Technician development schemes in Nigeria.
- Creation of vibrant, relevant and functional units of Farmers Brigade in all 774 LGAs – through innovative communication and enlistment campaign to efficiently, effectively and sustainably woo and secure the trust and commitment of the Nigerian Youths
- Globalise our Community Policing policy framework – hence, withdraw all Military, Security and Police personnel attached to public office holders, private individuals and organisation in order to restore acute professionalism, ethical and combat readiness of our Military, Security and Police services – and invariably strengthen our private security sector.
- Ensure that all legislative representatives increase their official contact with their respective constituents – according to the Law and Order of the National Assembly.
- Establish Civil Service Performance Indicators to measure the unit content of every public servant.
- The over 600 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (Commission, Institutions etc) MDAs in Nigeria should publish their activities for unfettered accessibility by the public – hence invoking the tenets of the Freedom of Information Act (2011), et al.
Oil spills, waste dumping and gas flaring are endemic in the Niger Delta. This pollution, which has affected the area for decades, has damaged the soil, water, and air quality. Hundreds of thousands of people are affected, particularly the poorest and those who rely on traditional livelihoods such as fishing and agriculture. The human rights implications are serious, under-reported and have received little attention from the government of Nigeria or the oil companies. No respite is even attempted to think that the Ogoni Clean up exercise is a sufficient panacea for the devastation of crude spills in the Niger Delta.
Prince Emmanuel Anderson Ogan
Multi-sector Stakeholders Engagement Strategist
Technical Assistant Warri Federal Constituency Office