24 August 2011, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The Nigerian government has indicated a plan to open a cancer registry centre in Ogoni while it awaited the white paper on the UNEP study in the next two weeks.
The Director General of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, Sir Peter Idabor, said in Abuja that the Federal Government was making every effort to implement the recommendations on Ogoniland for immediate remediation.
He made the disclosure while receiving emissaries from King Barnabas Barizomdu Paago Bagia, Vice Chairman Ogoni Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers led by HRH, Mene Sunday Kotex and Mene Celestine Nuate.
Idabor’s disclosure came as Ogoni civil society groups vowed to resist resumption of oil exploration in their community without the complete remediation of the environment as recommended by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The activists, under the aegis of Ogoni Civil Society Platform (OCSP), kicked against the appointment of the Minister of Petroleum to head the review committee set up by the Federal Government to scrutinize UNEP recommendations.
On the issue raised by the UN report that children born in the last 20 years are exposed to cancer risk due to the magnitude of the oil pollution, Idabor said: “We are trying to open up a cancer registry to take a back look at the medical records in the hospitals in the area to see the incidence of cancer and epidiemiology diseases in the area and see the correlation with the oil spill. As a scientist, we have to carry out a proper study to have statistics on it.”
According to him, the committee set up by the President to study the report will be out in two to three weeks but the governor had accepted to intervene in the supply of drinking water for the areas affected.
He however advised the king’s emissaries to raise public awareness through the youths in the land and their representatives at the National Assembly on the dangers of using the already identified contaminated water for any domestic use.
Idabor stressed that the people of Ogoni should be patient with the Federal Government to come out with a position on the recommendation as the UNEP report gave a one year latent period for the institutions responsible to come up with mechanism on the implemention of the report.
But, spokesperson for the Ogoni Civil Society Platform, Mike Karikpo, condemned government public stance of immediate resumption of oil production in Ogoni with or without any environmental remediation.
Karikpo stressed that the mere fact that government could contemplate such a cynical line of action in the face of Ogoni plight, was an indication that it was prepared to sacrifice defenseless local communities rather than risk lower oil revenue receipts.
“If government had meant well it would have borrowed a leaf from the Obama-led United Sates Government, whose response to the Gulf of Mexico spill crisis was speedy and people-friendly. The administration virtually relocated from White House, to the affected areas and compelled the polluting company to adequately compensate victims, carry out standard cleanup of the environment and imposed serious sanctions on the firm,” he added.
OCSP wondered why the government opted for the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), an arm of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which cannot exonerate itself from the environmental ruination of Ogoni as most qualified to exploit Ogoni oil.
“Besides, not only does it lack the technical competence to mine Ogoni oil but it also has no records of community relations and respect for human and environmental rights. It is therefore not unlikely that NPDC would concern itself with profit, which would only oil the fraudulent pockets of the cabal in Abuja and Lagos against the interests of the Ogoni people,” Karikpo said. .
OCSP said the fact that the presidential committee set up to review the UNEP was headed by a polluter, the Federal Ministry of Petroleum which was as guilty as Shell and led by a former Shell executive was questionable.
“It is doubtful that the Minister of Petroleum can be firm on this matter that has nailed Shell and the Federal Government. Our suspicion is that the ultimate intention of government is to water down the report as was the case with the National Electoral Reform Committee’s,” he said.
The UNEP report, according to him, has roundly indicted Shell over the massive and systematic devastation of the Ogoni environment and persistent violation of Nigerian laws governing oil and gas operations and even its own minimum standard.
OCSP, hence, called on President Goodluck Jonathan, to immediately take practical steps to implement the recommendations of the UNEP report as the Ogoni were prepared to work with him in this direction. According to the group, even with its imperfections, the UNEP recommendations are progressive and if executed faithfully, they can lead to the improvement of the Ogoni area.