The United Nations today welcomed the decision by the Nigerian Government to clean up a major oil contamination in the Ogoniland region of the country.
The decision comes twelve months after the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) presented a scientific assessment of oil pollution in Ogoniland to the Government, underlining serious public health and environmental impacts.
“On the anniversary of the Ogoniland assessment there are now clear and encouraging signals that the Government is keen to move on the recommendations – this is a welcome development for the people and the environment of this region who have suffered, and continue to suffer, the legacy of some 50 years of unsustainable oil exploration and production,” UNEP’s Executive Director, Achim Steiner, said in a news release.
The independent scientific assessment, carried out over a 14-month period, showed greater and deeper pollution than previously thought after an agency team examined more than 200 locations, surveyed 122 kilometres of pipeline rights of way, analyzed 4,000 soil and water samples, reviewed more than 5,000 medical records and engaged over 23,000 people at local community meetings.
The assessment emphasized the need for swift action to prevent the pollution footprint from spreading further and exacerbating the situation for the Ogoni people, and had proposed an initial sum of $1 billion to cover the first five years of clean-up operations.
The assessment had also estimated that while some on-the-ground results could be immediate, a fully sustainable recovery of Ogoniland could take 25 to 30 years and would require long-term financing.
Last month, the Nigerian Government announced that it would establish the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project, a government initiative that would fully implement UNEP’s recommendations to clean-up the area.
Over recent weeks, UNEP has held discussions with Nigerian environment officials on how to implement those recommendations.
“The immediate need is for the necessary funds to be mobilized and to be deployed to take the Project forward at a scale and speed commensurate with the challenge. Everyone has a part to play in realizing significant and positive results from the Government of Nigeria, local authorities and the oil industry to NGOs and local communities,” said the Director of UNEP’s Division of Environmental Policy Implementation, Ibrahim Thiaw, who presented the UNEP report to the Government last year.