Opinion

Saatah Nubari: As Buhari Takes Priority On North – East Infrastructure Over The Ogoni Environment

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In 2011, the United Nations Environmental Programme submitted a report on Ogoniland to the Nigerian State. It is a report that can best be described as: 262 pages of sheer horror. To prove to you that what you’ve just read is in no way related to alarmism, I’ll quote excerpts from the executive summary.

“Full environmental restoration of Ogoniland will be a project which will take around 25-30 years to complete, after the ongoing pollution has been brought to an end.”

On Thursday the 8th of January, 2015, the current President of the Nigerian State visited Ogoniland to solicit for votes, and in the process promised to implement the UNEP report. Again, to prove that what you’ve read here has nothing to do with me misinterpreting the President’s speech, I’ll quote him.

“Your environment has been sentenced to death, much is being taken from Ogoniland but just little is being brought back in return. If I am elected as the president of this country, I will complete the abandoned Bodo-Bonny road project and implement the UNEP report.”

Firstly, I’d love to say that both quotes mean a lot to me. The first quote from the UNEP report makes our already deplorable and wretched situation look hopeless; then that of the current President did the opposite, it gave us hope. My use of past tense there wasn’t mistaken, because that hope seems to have been a mirage. The most recent action by President Buhari seems to tow the path of the Nigerian State when it comes to the Ogoni environmental issue and that of the Niger Delta people as a whole.

The President has deemed it a matter of national emergency to take a loan of about $2.1 billion from the World Bank “to rebuild the North-East zone devastated by the jihadist group, Boko haram.” Thisis a welcome development and I commend him for that. But this is not why I’m here.

After oil was struck in Oloibiri in present day Bayelsa State, the next place was Bomu, my village, in present day Rivers State. So it is safe to say that the environmental degradation of Ogoniland began even before my father was born. In the midst of the reckless exploration and exploitation of our environment, $30 billion worth of oil has been mined from Ogoni. Going by the current exchange rate of 245 Naira to a Dollar, I’m talking something in the range of 7.2 Trillion Naira. Let me break this down further for you. If the money that has accrued to the Nigerian State from oil mined from Ogoniland is shared amongst 160 million Nigerians, EACH person will get 45,000 Naira. You understand me now? Yes that’s what my people have contributed to the Nigerian State and what have we gotten in return? $30 billion worth of oil spill. We didn’t get schools, good roads, electricity, clean and portable water or ANYTHING from our contributions to the economic development of this country. The inhabitants of Nsisioken Ogale in Eleme “…have been consuming water with benzene over 900 times the WHO guideline”. For you to understand the last quote, I’ll explain with another.

“IARC classifies benzene as “carcinogenic to humans,” based on sufficient evidence that benzene causes acute myeloid leukemia (AML). IARC also notes that benzene exposure has been linked with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.” The quote was gotten from here so you can go ahead and check it out.

Despite the fact that we have for the past 25 years continued to peacefully ask that our environment be respected, we have continued to be treated like second class citizens. The people of Ogoni have not asked for schools which we don’t have, for clean portable water which we don’t have, for good hospitals which we don’t have and a return on our investment in the Nigerian State which we might never get. The people of Ogoni have only asked that their environment be cleaned so they can farm and fish but the Nigerian State, a fiefdom that it is, has continued to see us as inconsequential.

The President of the Nigerian State deemed it an emergency to source a loan of $2.1 billion for the North, while the Niger Delta whose resources will be used to repay that loan continues to have her environment degraded. It should be noted that the UNEP report on Ogoniland proposed the sum of $1.5 billion over the first 5 years to help with the clean-up, but almost five years later nothing has been done. It should also be noted that the loan that is meant for the North is for infrastructure while what Ogoniland needs is for her environment, her health, her livelihood, her future.

As President Buhari continues to get in touch with his ethnically bigoted side, a side which he has carried over from the 1980’s, I urge citizens of the Nigerian state to remember that for the umpteenth time, the Nigerian state has seen the silence, peace and civility of the Ogoni people as a sign of cowardice and weakness. I urge the international community to know that if and when this generation or the next generation of Ogoni’s decide to act in the real sense of the word, it would be because they have been pushed to the wall for more than five decades, and as such it’ll just be a way of ensuring they continue to survive on a land which research shows they have called home since 15BC.

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Article written by Saatah Nubari is on Twitter @Saatah

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