By Yemi Akintomide
On Thursday, October 7th, it was exactly1000 days since firms were hired to clean up widespread oil spills across Ogoniland, which Ken Saro-Wiwa with the Ogoni nine, and many other activists brought to the attention of the world in the 1990s.
They paid the price for their activism with their lives at the hands of Nigeria’s then-military government, bringing worldwide condemnation—and in 2011, a UNEP Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland report compelled the Nigerian government to clean up the region’s previous oil spills.
The Federal Government of Nigeria formed the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) to coordinate cleanup efforts. HYPREP is already more than halfway through the five-year period UNEP predicted for initial clean-up activities, and while it has made some headway, essential amenities such as safe drinking water are still lacking.
To commemorate the occasion, Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN) and the Centre for Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) have launched a new civil society monitoring initiative that will vastly increase the availability of information on the progress of the $1 billion USD oil pollution clean-up in Ogoniland.
SDN and CEHRD introduced a new website on Thursday, October 7th.
The number of complex locations that will be cleaned has yet to be determined. Clean-up activities are expected to take significantly longer than the UNEP’s suggested five years if current trends continue. Infrastructure work that would be required to ensure that complicated locations can be effectively decontaminated has not yet begun (namely an Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Centre).
‘Emergency steps,’ first recommended ten years ago in a UNEP report, have yet to be implemented:
Despite the fact that contracts for construction have been awarded, all of the communities classified as having severely contaminated drinking water sources in 2011 still lack access to improved, safe drinking water sources.
The most common issues revolve around the low quality of chances provided by the clean-up (for example, low pay in clean-up tasks) and the inadequate management of complaints and potential conflict resulting from the clean-up. “This report contains a wealth of valuable information for HYPREP,” said SDN’s Senior Project Officer, Environment Jesse-Martin Manufor. “We hope the discussions this generates lead to a higher quality clean-up that will benefit the Ogoni people.”
Florence Kayemba, SDN’s Programmes Manager, said, “We can see some progress being made, and it’s essential to recognize that.” Is it, however, realistic to expect populations to go without safe drinking water? This was hi ten years later.