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Niger Delta censures slow oil spill cleanup

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By Timothy Akintola

Leaders must avoid politicizing the remediation, for progress in the cleanup.

Nigeria forged its wealth via an exploration of crude oil in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria. However, decades of immense oil production drilled from the rivers and creeks and the recurrent oil spillage have made this area one of the most polluted areas globally. Everyday, over a million barrels of crude oil are extracted and over 240,000 barrels spilled annually. Further reports claim that while European Union has experienced only 10 incidents of oil spillage in over 40 years, Nigeria has recorded over 9000 cases over the last 10 years. Regulatory agencies have however noted that these spills have been as a result of leaks from non serviced pipelines.

The environmental impacts of these oil spillages have made the residents of this area huge casualties. Most farmlands and rivers have been damaged, leaving these residents with little or no means for survival. Even the health status quo has been affected as a result of this spillage and the fire that it erupts. In a report, one of the victims, Prince Gbosidan recalled the eruption that occurred on April 29th, 2009, after a huge spill spread from an oil facility to his hometown, Deeyor-Kira, destroying numerous land farms.

Constant spills have led to environmental pollution across this region.

He noted that before the spill, it was easier to plant and expect a really good yield in the space of six months. He said that they now lived in abject poverty, consequently due to the spill destroying their means of livelihood. The 49 year old father added that he had stopped farming because of the environmental damage caused by the spill. He stated that he and his father farmed together in the 90s and yielded bountifully.

According to Gbosidan, harvesting for the family’s daily needs was now a very difficult task, as a result of the spill and other subsequent incidents. For decades, the crude oil drilled from Niger Delta served as an important asset for the country’s Economy and Export earning. However, constant spills leading to environmental Pollution have continually endangered the lives and properties of the over 30 million residents, spanning across nine states with a coastline of about 450 kilometers.

Life expectancy ratio in this region reduced by 10 years to 41.

Specifically, data from the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) which has been responsible for monitoring and responding to oil spillage cases in Nigeria, there were 9,870 cases of oil spill incidents between 2011 and 2021, which saw to the spilling of 466,214 barrels of oil into the area. On the effect of this recurrent oil spillage, reports also indicated that in 2012, about 16,000 babies died within the first month of their lives. The life expectancy ratio in this region is now 41 years, 10 years lower than the national average. One of the most popular cases of this oil spillage in the Niger Delta area is the Bonga oil spill from a Shell oil field in 2011, where over 40,000 barrels of oil spilled into the Atlantic Ocean and affected over 168,000 people in 350 communities.

The recurring oil spillages led to an environmental assessment report by the United Nation Environmental Programme. The survey found a widespread of contaminated water and soil and thus, recommended an efficient cleanup, in a bid to restore the polluted areas of the environment. This didn’t actualize until about five years later, where the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo noted that a total cleanup of Ogoniland would take up to 25-30 years, assuring that this process will lead to job creation for the youths. Still, it was until 2018 that the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) commenced its preliminary remediation on these polluted regions. Though over 50 site lots have been awarded to contractors, experts believe that these processes were inefficient done, blaming HYPREP for flouting the necessary rules.

Cleanup must be a multidimensional operation.

One expert, Mr. Obemeata noted that the cleaning exercise had not been going in accordance with the recommendations of UNEP. He further noted that the current leaders must take this issue more seriously and avoid politicization of this process, in order to make progress. Saatah Nubari. President of the Civil Society Group Niger Delta Congress, also pointed that the entire cleanup should be called to question and the remediation, re-enacted. Additionally, UNEP also recommended the provision of clean water, as the water in the area had been contaminated by the oil spillage. Charles Oyibo, an Environmentalist noted that the cleanup process was fraught with gaps and needed experts across different disciplines, as the cleanup should be a multidimensional operation.


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