Ijan address presented by the president of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Worldwide, Pereotubo Roland Oweilaemi at the conference of Niger Delta Youth Association (NDYA), held at Dragon Hotel, the Kingsway, Swansea, Sai 5ls, United Kingdom on the 1st of July, 2018.
It is heartwarming to be here discussing the Niger Delta question in this auspicious conference. There is no better time than now to address critical issues confronting the region. I therefore express my heartfelt commendation to the organisers of this very important gathering.
There is no doubt that peace will continue to elude the region as far as the the Niger Delta people are still suffering from the economic strangulation in the hands of the Nigerian government. In spite of the series of agitations for economic participation by the people in the Country’s mono-economy, successive governments of Nigeria have chosen to downplay the demands of the people. These were the reasons why the Niger Delta question become an intractable conundrum.
On the topic of discussion tagged: “Clean Up of Niger Delta Oil Spills, Ogoni Clean Up and NDDC Partisanship”, let me delve into the issues one after the others.
Crude Oil Spill in the Niger Delta:
This venom i.e, oil spill in the Niger Delta has become a reoccurring decimal as the region has recorded oil spills in no smaller measures in every passing year. The menace is chiefly caused by equipment failures by the oil companies due to their negligence. However, in recent past some economic saboteurs have joined the train in degrading the environments with the spilling of crude oil deposits on our biodiversity.
In 2017, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC)Joint Venture recorded nine operational spills of more than 100 kg in volume from the Company’s facilities in Niger Delta. Also in 2016 the Company recorded more than eight spills from its facilities in the region. These are in addition to spills caused by other oil companies in the Niger Delta. Only this year, the Forcados Trunk Line operated by SPDC JV got ruptured at Odimodi Creek in Burutu LGA of Delta State of Nigeria thereby emitted a large volume of crude oil into the environment which has caused an untold hardship on Odimodi people.
The surprising thing is that the oil companies have refused to accept responsibilities for these environmental abuses. Even the ones they reluctantly accepted responsibilities, there were no compliant with the Environmental Guidelines and Standards for the Petroleum Industry in Nigeria (EGASPIN), Revised Edition 2002. The Federal Government on its part has aided the oil companies in absconding their environmental responsibilities through weak legislations. Even the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) has not done much as it has no disciplinary power over the oil companies in case of oil spill.
In must be made known to the world that in January 16th, 2012 an explosion of a gas rig occurred at K.S Endeavour (Panama), near the North Apoi Platform/Field, West of the Funiwa Field in Bayelsa State of Nigeria where lives were lost, while property worth billions of naira were destroyed by the explosion. The said Oil Field is being operated by Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL). Regrettably up till now, the Company has refused to compensate the coastal communities affected by the explosion in spite of a subsisting Court judgment that has awarded two hundred billions of naira against the CNL. In a similar vein, the Bonga Oil Field operated by SPDC JV also spilled a large volume of crude oil into the Nigerian coastal line on the 20th of December, 2011 to destroy the faunas and the flora of the coastal communities in Bayelsa and Delta States of Nigeria. The most regrettable part of the incidence is that the Company refused to pay the $3.6b fine imposed on it by the Federal Government of Nigeria to compensate the beleaguered communities.
My position is that, to curb this menace, the Federal Government needs to engage some international bodies like UNEP to take a comprehensive study of the region to ascertain the level of damages done to the environment in order to recommend an appropriate measure in cleaning the area. To achieve this, all stakeholders in the oil sector need to be in partnership to execute this project. The measure to be taken must not just to clean the environment but must also involve preventable steps to forestall the menace of oil spillages.
The Ogoni land Clean Up Exercise:
The present government has not taken any concrete step to fully take off the clean up exercise. Ogoni land was damaged by SPDC JV and as since 1993, the Company has stopped further operations on the Land. The Ogoni people struck an agreement with the Government of Nigeria and SPDC that for the Company to return to it’s platforms, the degraded land must be cleaned up. During the tenure of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as President of Nigeria, he engaged the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) to ascertain the level of damage on the land.
UNEP presented its report in August, 2011 to former President Goodluck Jonathan with a recommendation that the government and SPDC should spend $1b to clean up Ogoni land for the damages done as a result of crude oil exploratory activities.
Recommendations of the report when it was commissioned by and delivered to the Federal Government of Nigeria was directed to the government, the oil and gas industry and communities to begin a comprehensive cleanup of Ogoniland, restore polluted environments and put an end to all forms of ongoing oil contamination in the region.,
UNEP assessed that the environmental restoration of Ogoniland would require coordinated efforts on the part of government agencies at all levels, industry operators and communities. UNEP also presented its recommendations as a major opportunity to bring new investment, employment opportunities and a culture of cooperation to Ogoniland in addition to driving improvements in the environmental and health situation on the ground.
The majority of UNEP’s recommendations require multi-stakeholder efforts coordinated by the Federal Government of Nigeria’s agencies. The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC), as operator of the SPDC Joint Venture, is one of the stakeholders addressed in the UNEP report, although it has not produced oil or gas in Ogoniland since 1993. Over the last six years after the report was submitted to the Nigerian Government, SPDC has taken action on all recommendations directed to it by the UNEP Report and has completed a majority of these recommendations. However, same has not been replicated by the government.
As the UNEP report stated, treating the problem of environmental contamination within Ogoniland merely as a technical clean-up exercise will ultimately lead to failure. Ensuring long-term sustainability is a much bigger challenge – one that will require coordinated and collaborative action from all stakeholders.
The UNEP report highlighted significant environmental impacts from oil pollution in parts of Ogoniland relating to a variety of causes. Their report also calls for a coordinated effort between government, oil and gas companies and communities to bring an end to all forms of oil contamination in Ogoniland, such as crude oil theft and illegal crude oil refining.
Despite the public commendations to the report, the then President Jonathan has not shown much commitment to implement it. However on the 5th of June, 2016 the present administration led by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo SAN launched the clean up exercise. Regrettably two years after that ceremony, we have not seen any concrete step taken by the Government of President Mohammadu Buhari to execute the project. The government like its predecessors is only paying lip service to this very important project.
The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as the name implies, is established to cater for the development needs of the region. As an interventionist agency, it is expected that the Commission will take emergency response steps to cushion the effects of oil spillages in the Niger Delta region. However, to the total dismay of the economically bastardized people, the Commission is even starve of funds. It is disheartening to note that the Federal Government of Nigeria is owing the Commission about N1.8trn.
This is however not to say that the agency cannot partner with the relevant stakeholders to tackle the environmental degradation. Just like UNEP report on Ogoniland, recommending the Federal Government, multinational oil companies and other critical stakeholders’ joint partnership, NDDC can also play a role in assisting the relevant bodies to provide interventionist services for these communities.
While demanding for the Commission’s partnership, we must draw a line between its onerous statutory responsibilities towards the Niger Delta communities and the responsibilities bequeathed to the multinationals in responding to the oil spillages caused by their negligence. I have to say this so that the Commission should not be overstretched.
Even if the Commission is being paid with the funds withheld by Federal Government of Nigeria, I will recommend that the agency should focus on delivering its mandate to the people. Niger Delta region is in dare need of capital projects. I therefore suggest the partisanship NDDC needs is a financial contribution by all the development stakeholders to enable it meet its needs.
Let me use this medium to re-echoe the stand of the Niger Delta people on the continued gas flaring and to call on the Federal Government of Nigeria to stop gas flaring out-rightly in accordance with global best practices. Niger Delta region is becoming a dead trap, no longer suitable for habitation as same is fast running out of the potency to sustain life, due to years of reckless exploratory activities. Government must brace up to the challenges by taking up some preventable measures in order to secure the lives that are already exposed to the danger of oil explorations/exploitations. One of the dangers associated with the oil productions in the region is gas flaring.
Despite the global warning against the continued gas flaring due to the risk associated with the burning of hydro-carbon Gas, the Federal Government of Nigeria still encourages the oil companies to continue the flaring of gas at the detriment of the Niger Delta people who hitherto have been denied of the right to enjoy their God–given wealth. We are not unaware that the Associated Gas Re-injection Act, though enacted to curb the continued gas flaring, is ironically skewed to favour the oil companies by given the companies an option to pay penalty instead of an outright ban.
We are aware that the Government wants to replace the law with another one, titled: “Gas Flaring (Prohibition) Bill, 2017 which is currently going through legislative processes in the National Assembly as part of the Federal Government’s new gas policy. To our dismay, even the new Bill has not provided for an outright ban of the dangerous gas flaring which has claimed in no fewer than one millions lives in the region since oil was discovered in 1958. The intendment of the framers of the new Bill is to use same to amass wealth for the Government at the expense of the people’s lives by increasing the fines to be paid by the oil companies. Most disgusting is the fact that even the fines collected from the oil companies were not given to the pauperised communities to soothe to their sufferings.
Wasting the hydrocarbon gas to pollute the atmosphere which is one of the main causes of green house effect has been discouraged via international treaties. The Associated Gas Re-injection Act of 1979 or its repealed Bill (Gas Flaring (Prohibition) Bill, 2017) is clearly at variance with the Global demands for the reduction of the emission of carbonated gas which gave rise to greenhouse effects. Sections 3 & 5 of the said Associated Gas Re-injection Act together with the provisions of the Associated Gas Re-injection Regulations of 1982 as well as the convoluted new gas Bill are all inconsistent with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), 1992 and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1982. Article 2 of the UNFCCC in particular provides that the objective framework of the Convention is to prevent dangerous authropogenic (i.e. human) interference of the climate system. Nigeria is a signatory to these conventions and is bound to uphold the resolutions of those Conventions. We wish to make a particular reference to Articles 3 & 4 of the UNFCCC, 1992 which compelled all member countries to strictly uphold the resolutions of the convention.
May I once again draw the attention of the Nigerian Government to the 2010 Cancun Agreement by the UNFCCC member countries which Nigeria was duly represented? The said Agreement has brought a framework that future global warming should be limited to below 200c (3.6 0f) relative to the pre-industrial level. In spite of Nigeria’s awareness to the global concerns to the protection of human environment, successive Governments including this present Government of President Mohammadu Buhari have not done anything to assuage the continued invasions of the Niger Delta environments by the oil companies together with their government collaborators.
For the survival of the inhabitants of the Niger Delta region, I advised that the Federal Government should set the laws in motion for the outright ban on gas flaring. The proposal of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to stop gas flaring in two years time should be upheld if the people must survive. Already there is soot falling in Rivers State of Nigeria. What we are seeing in that State is a prelude to what is coming to the entire region. It will in no doubt spread to all over the Niger Delta and of course the soot falling is a clear prognostication that environmental danger is looming through the activities of oil explorations.Niger Delta people will no longer bear the pain of having oil in their Lands. Let the Government direct the oil companies to convert the hydrocarbon gas into an energy which is the practice in advanced clime. We can no longer bear the brunt.
May I at this juncture commend once again the organisers of this epoch making conference. For creating this platform of intellectual gathering for us to chat the way forward, I am pleased to express my gratitude for the initiative of NDYA. I hope that you continue to replicate the gains recorded here to make this gathering an annual event. My supplication is that it should also be extended to the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Let this conference be held in the Niger Delta too.