- Post 05 June 2006
- Last Updated on 23 April 2008
- By Zayyad I. Muhammad
World Environment Day 2006: Between Shell And
On 5th June 2006, the world will be commemorating The Year 2006 World Environment Day; World Environment Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. Another resolution, adopted by the General Assembly the same day, led to the creation of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Many Nigerians may not be enthusiastic about WED celebration, and equally, villages and communities whose natural environment is constantly changing owing to activities of those living in urban areas and cities may be unaware of the existence of the day.
The truth is, environmental issues are the actual factors that ignited the current crisis in the Niger Delta; Niger Delta is Africa’s largest delta covering some 7000 square kilometers, about one third of this area is made up of wetlands and it contains the largest mangrove forest in the world about 5,400-6,000 km2, this region is today the source of over 90 percent of the oil, which now dominates the Nigerian economy. Oil accounts for over 90 percent of export earnings and some 80 percent of government revenue in Nigeria, but the history of 'development' associated with oil exploitation in Nigeria has been troubled from the outset. Globally, when oil is mentioned the first thing that comes to the minds of many people is wealth, technology and development; but in Nigeria, when oil is mentioned, what comes to the minds of many people is Niger Delta, poverty, insecurity, corruption, lack of openness, and of course severe environmental degradation, of which government and oil multi-nationals are the major culprits.
The Major Environmental Challenges facing the Niger delta and oil multinationals, are: Oil pollution, Waste management, Gas flaring, Improving environmental performance, Regulatory standards Compliance, Conducting integrated Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and Environmental Evaluation Reports (EERs), Compensation Payment management and Rehabilitation of past impacted areas and sites, thus, this bring the issue of the need for involvement of locals in conducting EIAs and strict compliance with guard lines of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) decree No. 86
With area spread in nine states of the Niger Delta covering over 70,000 sq kilometers, with over 1,000 producing wells and production capacity of 1.3 million bopd, 87 Flow Stations & 10 Gas Plants, 2 Terminals at Bonny & Forcados, More than 10,000 staff and huge associated gas gathering network, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) can said to be everywhere in the Niger Delta; hence, this entails that, SPDC is involve in large scale industrial Land destruction, deforestation, deprivation and degradation, intensive land preparations for seismic, drilling and most obviously, production facilities flow stations, manifolds, flow lines and trunk line network and the huge land requirement for the massive access road networks; costal zone modifications, upstream dam construction. The massive road access requirement for oil exploration by multinational oil companies are the major causes in the inevitable land deprivation to host communities and destruction of ecosystem; the famous Gbaran SPDC field is still in the minds of many environmentalist and indeed many Nigerians, the Gbaran oil field road construction was a major project that attracted the attention of many people due to the adverse effect the project impacted on several communities; Communities which depend on the forest for sustenance such as Opolo, Onopa, Obunagha, Gbarantoru, Yenizue-gene, Yenizue-epie, Yenagoa, Amarata, Okutukutu, Agudama-Epie, Edepie, Tombia, Bumoundi, Agudama-Ekpetiama, Akaibiri, Kpansia, Polaku, Koroama, Okolobiri, Okotiama, Ogboloma, Nedugo-Agbia, Etegwe, Igbogene, this was also highlighted by The Guardian of Monday, June 7, 1999 p.45 “The Niger Delta Phenomenon is a gift Nigerians should thank God for and should be painstakingly managed and not to be destroyed. A practical example of the adverse effect of disregarding environmental issues in carrying out development projects can be found in the Yenagoa – Tombia Road Project by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC). The whole environment has been destroyed and SPDC is now being asked to pay compensation, redesign and reconstruct the road with due regard to the environment. The whole area became waterlogged all year round because the dredging work for the road construction blocked the streams. All the trees were destroyed. The land was degraded and the water was contaminated and sinking, and all the aquatic life was destroyed. What this means is that the people in this area who depended on these streams for their fishing lost all and were subjected to health hazards. What amount can you pay for such an inconvenience and economic loss?”
Imaging your self peeping into your room’s window seeing an oil-drilling site with everything of life-electricity, portable water, telephone facilities and security; but looking back at your self, family and community, you see nothing but poverty, disease, illiteracy, unemployment, violence and an environment ‘on- it-heads’; this is the pathetic situation of poor masses in the Niger Delta, but who is to be blame? Three people of course: the government, oil multi-national and political leaders of the region.
Clearly, the challenge of developing the Niger Delta and protecting its environments is complex but not insurmountable, and we cannot remove issues as minority right and human right abuses from it. As the Willink Commission of Inquiry in 1957 observed: there is need to “enquire into the fears of minorities and the means of allaying them." Equally, Human Right Watch in a report tagged ‘The Price Of Oil’ accused both the government and the oil multinational for some form of human right abuses. Both the federal government and the oil companies are claiming to be doing something to help the situation; in 1961 the federal government established Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB), then Niger Delta River Basin Development Authority (NDBDA) in 1976, later Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) in 1992 and presently Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in 2000, SPDC and the Research & Development division of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC recently signed a N240 million contract to enable the Anglo giant reduce the level of its operation’s impact on the environment. SPDC have also established programmes such as: Niger Delta Contractor Revolving Credit Facility, Nigeria Content Development Planning, Marginal Fields Programme and the liveWIRE programme; but are these enough?
The slogan for World Environment Day 2006 is: "Deserts and Desertification - Don't desert dry lands!” This slogan speaks volumes for Nigerians; from the far North, desertification is speedily encroaching into Nigeria, in the southwest the Atlantic ocean is fast eating Lagos, Gully erosion is having a free day in the southeast, while in the south-south humans are busy destroying the environment of ‘The Goose That lays The Golden Egg’.
Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from