THE TASK BEFORE NPDC IN OGONI
The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) has blood on its hands. SPDC has spilled blood all over Ogoniland through its activities and actions. The company has also caused massive environmental destruction in the Ogniland where over 60 million gallons of oil is said to have been spilled onto farmlands and community water supplies. The destroyed land and water formerly provided sustenance for the indigenous people of Ogoni.
SPDC crimes in Ogoniland also include its roles in providing financial assistance, logistics support, guns and moral support to the Nigerian military dictatorship for the execution of the Ogoni 9 environmental activists including Ken Saro-Wiwa when they demanded that SPDC cleanup spilled oil in Ogoniland and share the profits more equitable with oil bearing communities.
This campaign of terror embarked upon by Shell which led to the murder of nearly 2,000 Ogoni people with some tortured to death is well known among the Ogonis and will remain indelible in the minds of the Ogonis for several generations to come.
For decades, the people of Ogoni have complained about the usurpation of their land and resources, the destruction of their culture, and the eventual decimation of the people. It is on record that since 1958, $30 billion worth of oil has been taken from beneath the land of the Ogoni, yet essentially zero benefits have accrued to the Ogoni people themselves, reported World Council of Churches. When the group sent observers to Ogoniland in 1995, they found no piped water supplies, no good roads, no electricity, and no proper health care facilities.
Shell, a Dutch Company is the 10th largest corporation in the world and the first in profitability. The company has 96 oil production wells in Ogoniland, 5 flow stations and numerous gas flares which have operated continuously since 1958. By the end of 1992, Ogoni oil production was some 28,000 barrels per day, about 3% of SPDC’s total oil production. Shell also maintains many high-pressure oil pipelines that crisscross Ogoniland, carrying oil from other parts of Nigeria to the shipping terminal at Bonny.
As a result of growing pressure for reform in Ogoniland in 1993, SPDC ceased oil production in the area, but retained its network of pipelines carrying oil produced elsewhere in Nigeria. Although the World Council of Churches finds evidence that SPDC has not ceased oil production in Ogoniland, the company insists its production wells are idle.
Whether SPDC oil wells in Ogoniland are producing oil or not, between 1976 and 1980, Shell operations caused 784 separate oil spills in Nigeria. From 1982 to 1992 additional spills were recorded. Since SPDC “ceased oil production” in Ogoniland in 1993, Shell admits further 24 oil spills have occurred in the area.
Apart from the World Council of Churches’ findings which linked SPDC to continued oil drilling in Ogoniland, in one of the documents I stumbled on in my study during the course of gathering facts for this article captioned, “COMMUNIQUÉ ISSUED AT THE MOSOP GLOBAL LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE IN ACCRA, GHANA, MARCH 28 – 30, 2002 and singed by Meshach Karanwi, General Secretary – MOSOP International, accused Shell of adopting “nascent lateral oil drilling techniques to drill oil from Ogoniland from remote locations”. The same document stated in Article 10 “That MOSOP reasserts its stand on Shell as persona non-grata in Ogoni”.
The Ogoni people see SPDC and the Federal Government of Nigeria as partners in crime against oil bearing communities and the people of Ogoni. Their conspiracy to destroy Ogoni communities and kill the people has not abated, only opportunities are yet to present themselves.
It is true that the spirit of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni leaders and that of other Ogoni martyrs will continually hunt the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) or any other company that comes to Ogoniland for oil production through SPDC and the Federal Government of Nigeria. Besides, it is impossible for NPDC to severe relationship with SPDC and the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The fears of the people concerning NPDC are numerous.
- If SPDC, a Dutch company that operates in 100 countries has 40% of its oil spills in Nigeria, what will happen when NPDC, a company owned and managed by the Federal Government of Nigeria with its poor managerial cultures and oppressive tendencies fully become operational in Ogoniland?
- It is on record that Shell only provided the needed finance, logistics, guns and moral support yet nearly 2,000 Ogonis and their leaders were murdered. What will be the fate of the entire Ogonis when NPDC, an Hausa/Fulani owned company fully becomes operational in Ogoniland?
- There is wide spread fears among the Ogonis that the so-called NPDC is SPDC in disguise. They are watching perhaps to unveil the actual group behind the new masquerade in town.
- In the ongoing consultation and sensitization by NPDC the Ogonis are already seeing SPDC dance steps and are watching carefully. The words of Dr. Owens Wiwa, Ken Saro-Wiwa’s brother now forms topic of discussion across Ogoniland. Hear him, “Our people are dying in the hands of our government and Shell”. Will NPDC not mobilize Nigeria soldiers to kill the remaining Ogoni people when they eventually dare to ask for their rights to share in oil profits? NPDC activities in Ogoniland are already pitching communities against each other. Groups are already at loggerheads with each other. Interests are now colliding daily. In Eleme, war is breeding between SPDC GMOU Cluster Development Board based in Ebubu and “Council of Traditional Rulers of Oil Bearing Communities”, a private company (Trustee?) based in Ogale on who is the rightful representative. The community leaders on the other hand are also agitating for recognition and direct participation in the oil money. Towards this end, groups are already petitioning NPDC Management disclaiming and dissociating from other groups and their activities. The story is the same in Korokoro, Bunu-Botem, Yorla, K-Dere and other Ogoni communities. Only God will save Ogoniland from the hands of the Nigerian government and Shell Oil.
- For the Ogonis, Shell and its activities have brought poverty, environmental devastation, and widespread severe human rights abuses. The Nigeria government who is primarily responsible for environmental tragedy in Ogoniland cannot be a good business partner when it comes to oil production in Ogoniland. The Ogonis are convinced that irrespective of the damning UNEP Ogoniland report that it would take 30 years to cleanup Ogoniland, the federal government is only concern with commencing oil production in Ogoniland. And is bent on forcing the Ogonis to allow for oil production or be hanged to death. This fear is further reinforced by the fact that the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company is a subsidiary of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the most senior partner in the petroleum industry in Nigeria and it is owned 100% by the federal government of Nigeria.
- Ogonis fear that their interests will not be guaranteed and protected. NPDC have concluded negotiation with SPDC to take over its facilities in Ogoniland without resorting to the Ogonis the rightful owners of the oil. The question here is, without oil can NPDC buy SPDC facilities in Ogoniland? NO. And if the answer is no, why was the Ogonis not involved in the negotiation from the beginning bearing in mind that oil drilling has caused devastating impacts on Ogoni environment? That the effects of oil spills, gas flaring and deforestation have stripped Ogoniland of its environmental resources, destroying the subsistence farming and fishing based economy of the Ogonis is enough to allow the Ogonis to negotiate who to do oil business with in its own terms. The Ogonis, as usual, will resist any attempt by the government to impose any firm of condition or force any marriage of inconvenience on the Ogonis. To the Ogonis, any company seeking to carry out oil production in Ogoniland must directly negotiate with the Ogonis and such company must comply fully with environmental best international practices, including UNEP and UNCTAD basic standards. Again, the way and manner the Ogoni 9 were framed up, convicted and executed by hanging on November10, 1995 and the treatment melted out to the family members of Ken-Saro Wiwa, John Kpuinen, Dr. Barinem Kiobel, Saturday Doobee, Daniel Gbokoo and Felix Nuate is enough to make the Ogonis yet unborn wary of the federal government of Nigeria and her oil companies.
- The fears of the Ogoni people is also compounded by the activities of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Program (HYPREP), a federal government body responsible for the implementation of the UNEP report for the cleanup of Ogoniland which has been moribund due to government insincerity towards the Ogoni cleanup. The sudden reawakening of HYPREP and the way it is going about its “sensitization” is both suspicious and worrisome.
- The Ogoni people still hold the Federal Government of Nigeria and SPDC responsible for the militarization and criminalization of Ogoniland. The World Council of Churches report corroborated this perception. According to the World Council of Churches, “There are more guns and ammunition in the public domain and hunger is pushing more people into crime. It is not surprising that there is no security of persons and property. The crime rate has skyrocketed”. Perhaps, the Federal Government of Nigeria has forgotten the last words of Ken Saro-Wiwa, “Lord take my soul, but the struggle continues”. Some ethnic nationalities in Nigeria can mortgage their conscience or betray their leader for the sake of fear or for fame, cheap popularity, money, but not the Ogoni people.
And true to the nature of the Nigerian government and its agencies, HYPREP came into Ogoniland with a fixed mindset and preconceived project for the Ogonis not seeking the people’s input or bothering about their needs. Analysis of the discussions between the visiting HYPREP officials and natives in all the Ogoni communities revealed masters and servants’ relationship and not partners in business. It is “Take water or leave it”. “Only contractors with high technology will be allowed into Ogoni to demonstrate and test their new technology before engagement”. “Only youths with at least a Master Degree in Environmental Management will be trained and engaged for the cleanup”. These were some of the HYPREP edicts to the oil bearing communities.
That is, in the characteristics of all federal government agencies the promises are so vague that leaves more to be desired. HYPREP Coordinator, Dr. Marvin Dekil, said that HYPREP will provide clean drinking water to impacted communities; update baseline data of UNEP report; conduct health impact assessment study; demonstrate remediation technology; construct an Integrated Containment Soil Management Centre and Centre of Excellence all in New Bori City and training. The Ogoni people have heard all these over and over again.
The Ogoni people are aware that the UNEP Report upon which the cleanup is hinged recommends some emergency measures to be taken to intervene in the lives of the Ogoni people before the cleanup. The provision of potable water is welcomed, since their sources of water are contaminated by oil spill, but shouldn’t be the only intervention programme. Apart from water sources the economy mainstay of the people has been destroyed and their sources of livelihood ruined by oil production activities.
The deprivation clauses in HYPREP arrangements are also worrisome. The training, perhaps, is conceived for only those with “Master Degree in Environmental Management”, while the empowerment programme is expected to be preserve for the “poor of poor widows”. Education, health, roads, electricity and other infrastructures which are equally on the people’s priority list and which has continue to keep the people at disadvantage position and hold them down beyond poverty level are to wait.
Between HYPREP and NPDC who is now forerunner to who? That is, is HYPREP forerunner to NPDC or vice versa? Can the Federal Government of Nigeria answer this question since both bodies are government agencies on an errand of maneuvering for the federal government to commence oil production in Ogoniland with its soldiers on standby to invade Ogoniland in case of any resistance?
The timing for the NPDC consultation and HYPREP sensitization in Ogoniland speaks volume and leaves the people wondering the rationale behind the rush.
The Ogoni people as oil producing area expect greater stake in the control and management of oil business in its territory. They anticipate equity in the allocation of revenue so that oil revenue can be used for the development of their environment.
They also believe that they own the resources above, beneath, and within their territory and therefore reason that all laws that impinge on their independence and natural rights to property or resources that is found in their territory, such as the Petroleum Act, Mineral Acts, Oil Pipelines Act, the Land Use Act and other laws instituted by the Federal Government of Nigeria be abrogated. While Section 315 (5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which entrenches the Land Use Act and Section 215 (1) of the same Constitution which gives Federal High Court exclusive jurisdiction to determine cases involving mines and minerals, including oil fields, oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas be expunged from the Constitution.
The tasks before the NPDC in Ogoniland therefore are enormous. Can NPDC convince the Ogonis that it can deliver on its own expectations? What are these expectations? How will it go about them? The Ogonis will want to know.
To do this the company must come closer to the people, sit with the people and discuss with the people publicly and not the present arrangements of talking to selected few (who are bent on hijacking or cornering the people’s benefits) in hotels and in their private houses.
The Ogoni people are well-educated, including in things of oil and are very much aware of SPDC and Nigeria Government divide and rule tactics and are ready to play along with NPDC. But, will NOT allow the NPDC to embark on oil production activities in Ogoniland when the time comes, except the company approach them openly, genuinely agree business terms with the Ogonis, and enter into a well-defined and valid memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Ogonis where their interests will be defined, guaranteed and protected based on international standards. To marshal the people’s trust, gain their support and cooperation NPDC must express real sincerity of purpose in Ogoniland.
- The Federal Government of Nigeria must as a matter of importance involve the Ogoni people in its resolve to providing necessary infrastructures and conducive environment for oil production activities in Ogoniland.
- The Federal Government of Nigeria must put a structure in place to provide for the licensing of Oil Bearing Communities to participate in the business of oil production.
- The government must demonstrate beyond all reasonable doubt its commitment to cleanup all oil spills in Ogoniland and allow independent international body of experts to periodically assess cleanup activities.
- The federal government must cease its attempts to disguisedly force the Ogonis to sign statements which invite Shell or any other company to come to Ogoniland for oil production activities.
- Hutchful E. (1985) “Oil Companies and Environmental Pollution in Nigeria”, London, Longman Press
- Saro-Wiwa, Ken (1994) As quoted from Rowell, Andrew (1994), Shell-shocked, the environmental and social costs of living with Shell in Nigeria, Amsterdam: Greenpeace International.
- SPDC (1995) Nigeria brief: The Environment.
- The London Observer, January, 28, 1996, “Shell Admits Importing Guns for Nigeria Police”.
- Claude Ake (ed) Political Economy of Nigeria, London, Longman Press.
- World Council of Churches (1996), Ogoni The Struggle Continues, Geneva, Switzerland.
- “Communiqué Issued At The MOSOP Global Leadership Conference In Accra, Ghana, March 28 – 30, 2002.