Ogoni women cry out over delay in clean up

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– Say Goi people were now in exile

Women in Ogoni took newsmen to their areas to show that nothing was being done about clean up. They said they have grown weary of waiting for the clean up and many are now living in exile.

Speaking during a media tour of polluted sites in Ogoni communities of Gokana local government area organised by Lokikia Women Development Centre, with support from Mama Cash, a Dutch international development agency, some members of oil impacted Ogoni communities poured lamented over devastating spills.

The women said in spite of the grave dangers faced by the communities as a result of oil pollution caused by many factors including Shell operations, no serious steps have been taken so far by the government and the oil company to clean up the environment and restore it to habitable standard.  They said community members still depended on polluted water and air for survival.

Mene Victoria Ada Kobani who hails from Goi, but resides in Bodo as a result of oil spillages that made Goi inhabitable, said in spite of complaints by community members, Shell refused to clean up Goi community.

She said; “We have been calling for clean up, they have been talking about clean up, but nothing is going on, not even in Bodo where a UK court had ordered Shell to clean up polluted sites.  We do not know if they are cleaning up or cleaning down. It is all noise”, the Goi community women leader said.

She disclosed that pollutions forced them to desert their community. “We have left this place because pollution made it unsafe to live in. Women will toil and toil until they are tired of toiling because land is no longer fertile. They suffer miscarriages; many children are not normal; we suffer too much and we do not even know how to explain the situation to our children. We have remained fugitives in other communities; we have continued to appeal to government to assist us in making the community habitable again.”

For a chief, Eric Dooh, a young royal father in Goi, the community has been deserted because of oil pollution. Failure to clean up the environment has remained a source of punishment to the people of Goi. Social and economic activities which have been disjointed are yet to be restored as a result of failure to clean up the mess.  Our people are suffering as a result of shell pollution; we no longer go for fishing because if we enter the river, we come out with rashes all over the body.  Children still play in the water exposing them to danger”.

In k-Dere, Gokana LGA, a woman leader, Grace Naamon, said Shell and the government had not done enough in Ogoni but were interested in oil exploration without cleaning up their mess. “Instead of clean up, they are still secretly dumping toxic waste on the community of K-Dere.” Shell had denied dumping any toxic waste in the area and explained the true nature of the dump.

She went on: “In addition, they came in to lay pipelines in the community. Women found it as show of disrespect; we staged a peaceful demonstration; we demanded EIA for the project; the local contractor who is from the community poisoned some of the women diabolically for protesting against the destruction of the community. Fishing and gathering of sea foods and periwinkles have become difficult”.

Shell said it was merely replacing pipelines in line with the UNEP Report to change old pipes and with valid approval of the communities along the pipe right of way.

But the Ogoni women believe the contrary. Naamon said;  “Initially, when they came, they pretended to have come for clean up. However, but it was later found out to be political move; nothing is going on in terms of clean up; it is politics. My advice to Shell is that they should come and clean up the land; no water has been supplied to our community as recommended by the UNEP report.

Talking about the implementation o f the UNEP report by the Hydrocarbon Protection and Restoration Project (HYPREP), she noted that there was nothing on ground to show that there was clean up. “The claim that 1500 women have been trained is a hoax as there is nothing like that. There is no plan for alternative livelihood; there is no consultation with the women, no action. We are not aware of any work plan by HYPREP.”

The Executive Director of the Lokaka Development Centre, Martha Agbani, commended the community members for boldness in expressing their disappointments. She disclosed that they embarked on the media tour as part of the process of monitoring the clean up processes in Ogoni area. She noted that the visit helped them to assess the clean up process, feel the pulse of the members of the communities, and document their experiences.

She disclosed that in all the spill sites they visited in Goi, Bodo and K-Dere, there was no sign of clean up going on. She said the failure to clean up and restore the environment of Ogoni amounts to condemning the people to death by instalment. She urged the government to come to the rescue of the people by prevailing on Shell to clean up Ogoni.

On September 30, 2018, Shell had launched the Bodo clean up after five years of negotiations out of court. The Ambassador of Netherlands, Robert Petri led other top dignitaries to the event in Bodo. The paramount ruler, Menebon Bodo, John Bari-Iedum Sunday Bebor Berebon, had openly said Shell had met all demands and that 400 youths had been trained by two companies, Lamor and Inkas, to start the flag off.

One of the trainees told BusinessDay on telephone that they started the clean up after the flag off and that it was in phases. He said more phases were to begin. He however said he would not know why Goi was not part of the clean up, saying only people from Goi would explain it.