Ogoni clean-up launch was for politics – officials

The effects on the water of an oil spill which occurred in mid 2007, near the community of Goi, Ogoniland, Nigeria, photo taken 28 January 2008.


Investigations have shown that the much talked about Ogoni clean-up which was few weeks ago launched with fanfare by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo may have been politically motivated.

This fact emerged as the project was not captured in the 2016, just as Shell which was supposed to provide counterpart funding has declared it would not release the first tranche of $5million unless the Federal Government has put in place the appropriate committees that will oversee the project and manage the fund. Although Government in 2015 announced the setting up of a committee that would handle the Ogoni project, it is yet to be put to work.

A visit to the Ogoni also revealed that one month after the launch, the place still remained its neglected past with no activity of any sort. No contractor has been mobilised to site.

Vice President Osinbajo had few days ago expressed fears that the insecurity in the Niger Delta might hinder the process of the Ogoni clean-up project.

When the Buhari government announced its readiness to embark on the clean-up of Ogoni land in 2015, Shell had immediately declared it won’t release money owed into the long-delayed fund until further governing structures are in place to oversee clean-up process

The long-delayed $1bn clean-up of heavily oil-contaminated Ogoniland in the Niger Delta moved closer four years after a damning UN report advised the government and oil industry to act urgently.

Spokesman for Shell, which discovered oil in Ogoniland in 1957 and exploited it until it was forced out because of pollution in 1993, said money would not be released until the Nigerian government went further, establishing a satisfactory governing structure and appointing commissioners to oversee the clean-up process.

Shell has accepted responsibility for cleaning up hundreds of its old spills in the small oil-rich delta region near Port Harcourt, but the spokesman said: “The money will be made available when we are sure that the structures are in place, are robust and will be overseen correctly. It is very much the responsibility of the Nigerian government.”

It also emerged that it will only have to find about $330m (£214m) of the promised $1bn, with the majority to be raised by other shareholders in the Shell Petroleum Development Corporation Joint Venture (SPDC). This includes the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), which holds 55% of the shares, Total (TEPNG) which holds 10% and Agip (NAOC) 5%. Earlier statements by Shell CEO Ben van Beurden suggested that the company had put aside $1bn.

“As stipulated by the [Nigerian] government, the SPDC Joint Venture is expected to contribute 90% of the $1bn fund. SPDC’s contribution will be 30% of that figure, commensurate with its shareholding in the SPDC JV,” said Shell in a statement.

According to the government, the new fund will be overseen by representatives of the Ogoni people, the United Nations, the oil companies operating in Nigeria and the government itself. Stakeholders are expected to pay an initial $10m into the fund.

The 2016 budget is N6.6 trillion naira. Total allocation to the Ministry of Environment is N19,473,373,106. Of this amount, breakdown shows personnel cost takes N13,050,150,656 while overhead cost is allocated N1,465,257,812. Recurrent expenditure is allocated N14,515,808,468 while N4,957,964,638 is allocated for capital expenditure. A thorough examination of the ministry’s budget did not make any allocation for the clean up let alone mentioning the project in any form.

The Ogoni clean-up and restoration programme of the Ogoniland region in the Niger Delta is expected to cost $1 billion.

The imperative of the clean up started during the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. The administration requested the United Nations Environmental Programme which eventually set up the Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland to examine “the environmental impact of oil industry operations in the area since the late 1950s.

The assessment which had a mandate of two years submitted its reports according to the time frame. Among other things, it found out that, that “oil contamination in Ogoniland is extensive and is having a grave impact on the environment, with pollution penetrating further and deeper than previously thought.”

The report “found severe and widespread contamination of soil and ground water across Ogoniland. In a number of locations, public health was severely threatened by contaminated drinking water and carcinogens. Delta ecosystems such as mangroves had been utterly devastated.

The report also found that “institutional control measures in place both in the oil industry and the Government were not implemented adequately.”

It therefore proposed the “establishment of a Restoration Authority with an explicit mandate to clean up Ogoniland and restore the ecosystems.”

It however also recommended the “establishment of an Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Fund with an initial capitalization of 1 billion dollars to cover the clean-up costs.”

While the administration of Mr Jonathan was deliberating on the way forward, the 2015 election brought in a new administration under Mr Muhammadu Buhari. To set the ball rolling as a continuation of the last administration’s programme in Ogoniland, the government quickly set up a launching date for the programme.

During the launching, which was conducted by Mr Osinbajo, the VicePresident, “said the Nigerian government was now delivering on what was one of President Buhari’s key election promises.” This has been found to be hoax and a deliberate manipulation of the people for political aim, it has been found out.

Investigations conducted at the UNEP’s office in Kenya showed that the organisation is also in the dark on the way forward. The organisation has no sources of fund or has been told how in actual fact the government would fund the project.

According to Mr Michal Szymanski, Associate Public Information Officer, at the UNEP Kenya’s Office, no information can be provided on sources of funds since their mandate was to conduct an assessment, the aim of which had been achieved. He directed our correspondent to get all necessary information from Ms Esther Agbarakwe at the Ministry of Environment. She is the UNEP’s desk headin the ministry.

Several visits to the ministry and electronic mails exchanges with Ms Agbarakwe did not yield the desired information. While she replied to the first email as, “hi, email received, will revert accordingly,” her second reply was, “The information would be provided. Awaiting approval.”

However, an official at the ministry of environment who said he was not surprise at lack of information said, “There was no information to give.”

According to him, “There is nothing in the 2016 budget for the clean up. As a matter of fact, the ministry is not working on any document to show the federal government has policy in place or beginning a policy to raise money for the project. It is one of the political moves.”

According to the Special Adviser on Media to the Minister of Budget and National Planning, James Akpandem, if the 2016 budget has no provision for the Ogoni clean up, there should be a way the government would raise money for the project. He directed our correspondent to check the 2016 budget of the Ministry of Environment and seek information from the ministry. According to him, “The ministry of budget should be able to provide how the government intends to fund the project.”

Another official who prefers not to be named said, “We don’t know anything about Ogoni clean up in this ministry, take your enquiries to another place. Better still, go and meet President Muhammadu Buhari or Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who launched the project. You people like to be deceived.

“Have workers been paid before you asked if government has committed or is ready to commit funds for the project. People mounted pressure on the federal government, so it decided to play along; so take it. As far as we are concern in his ministry, the UNEP desk does not do anything about Ogoni project, it is not in existence,” the official said.