Niger Delta: Activists want executive order on remediation plan, trust fund

As part of efforts to resolve the environmental crisis and create an enabling environment for fishing and marine industries in the Niger Delta region, some environmental and food security experts have called on President Ahmed Tinubu to issue an Executive Order creating a Niger Delta Environmental Remediation Programme and Trust Fund. 

The activists under the theme Coalition for A Cleaned Niger Deltal (CCND) on cleaning up of the Niger Delta and resolving the prevailing environmental genocide made this demand during a press conference recently.

The Coalition said it can either be  independent of or domiciled in the extant Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) currently overseeing the cleanup of Ogoniland, but with a separate Trust Fund from the Ogoni Trust Fund, an expanded Governing Council and an unimpeachable management system designed to avoid the contradictions that have historically bedeviled HYPREP and the debatable progress of the Ogoni cleanup.

In a joint statement by Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) and African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD), the government should adopt the National Principles on Divestment and Decommissioning in the Nigerian Oil Industry in line with the one recently compiled by a wide coalition of community, civil society and international organizations, following extensive field missions and engagements in the Niger Delta.

The Coalition said the catastrophic condition of the region’s environment is globally notorious and too well documented.

“One of the latest expert reports on it (titled AN ENVIRONMENTAL GENOCIDE: The human and environmental cost of Big Oil in Bayelsa, Nigeria) was released two weeks to the inauguration of Mr. President last May, by the high-level international panel constituted by the Bayelsa State Government, whose steering body includes former President John Kufour of Ghana, Baroness Valerie Amos (former UN Under Secretary-General and UK Secretary of State), and the former Archbishop of York, Baron John Sentamu.

“By the very limited official records of Nigeria’s spill detection body (National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency – NOSDRA), there were 16,263 oil spills within the 17-year period of 2006 to 2023.

“This accounted for about 823,483 barrels of oil spilt, equivalent to 4,103 tanker trucks or 130,933,797 litres of crude oil, from NOSDRA data. These figures are a fractional slice of the reality, as they exclude 5,456 spills for which the spiller companies did not provide NOSDRA with estimates of spilled quantities. Besides, estimates are usually and “understandably” grossly suppressed by operators. Data for some mega spills, like the Aiteo blowout at OML 29 that lasted for 38 days in November-December 2021, are also omitted.

“As part of a wider civil society and environmental leadership movement, we call on our President to uphold his sworn commitment to national renewal by calling for swift action to resolve the Ecocide (Environmental Genocide) in the Niger Delta, that increasingly threatens the continued existence of the entire region, undercuts the full economic potentials of our country, and constantly hangs national security on high risk levels,” the statement reads.

The coalition also urged the President to pay on the spot visit, along with the relevant Ministers and Regulators, and possibly the National Security Adviser, to some of the locations, which are too few as examples of devastation, to see for himself.

“The protracted social injustice of funding national development at such extreme ecocide expense of communities in the oil-producing Niger Delta region, or communities wherever else in Nigeria, needs to be urgently redressed, without any pretenses as witnessed under previous Administrations. With the ongoing divestment of their remaining onshore holdings in Nigeria by the major international oil companies (IOCs), and their huge outstanding environmental liabilities thrown into legal uncertainty, thereby portending further risks and escalation of social tensions for communities, the time for Mr President to act as the Protector-in-Chief of Nigerian communities is now,” the Coalition said.