The clean-up in Ogoni land is expected to commence in July through The Hydro Carbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP), an agency under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, HYPREP was anchored on a 2012 report by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) on the clean-up of Ogoni land, following decades of environmental degradation. The environmental restoration of Ogoni land could presently be seen as the world’s most wide-ranging and long term oil clean-up exercise ever undertaken if contaminated drinking water, land, creeks and important ecosystems such as mangroves are to be brought back to full, productive health.
Ogoniland is a region covering some 1,000 km² in the south-east of the Niger Delta basin. It has a population of close to 832,000, according to the 2006 National Census, Oil exploration in Ogoni land commenced in the 1950s with extensive production facilities established during three decades. These operations were handled by Shell Petroleum Development Company (Nigeria) Ltd (SPDC), a joint venture between the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), Shell International, Elf and Agip. Environmental incidents, such as spills and uncontrolled flares, became a norm in the area as soon as the operations began. Partly in response to the environmental consequences of oil production, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) was founded under the leadership of the Nigerian author Ken Saro-Wiwa. Saro-Wiwa who criticized oil companies and the government’s oil policy was an activist who believed that peaceful demonstrations,negotiations and diplomacy will be able to draw the attention of the government and the oil exploiting companies as well as the help of the International community to saving the people of ogoni who have been made homeless from fire-outbreaks, starving from polluted land,diseases and poverty amidst abundant wealth. In 1993 over 300,000 Ogoni joined a march to demand a share in oil revenues and greater political autonomy. As a consequence of the ensuing violence, oil exploration and production activities in Ogoni land ceased in the same year. The continuous delay in cleaning up of the highly rainfall land has led to oil being washed away, traversing farmland and almost always ending up in the creeks. The impact of oil on mangrove vegetation has been disastrous as oil pollution in many inter-tidal creeks has left mangrove, nurseries for fish and natural pollution filters. When an oil spill occurs on land, fires often break out, killing vegetation and creating a crust over the land, making remediation or re-vegetation difficult.
The Hope of every Ogoni man was lifted when in August, Shell accepted full responsibility for two massive oil spills that occurred in 2008 that devastated Bodo in Ogoniland where 69,000 people live and may take at least 20 years to clean up. Shell’s change of mind and acceptance of full liability for the spills followed a class action suit of local communities in a British court. President Muhammadu Buhari in a bid to brighten the hope of the Ogoniman and the Niger Delta people and for other political reasons is set to visit the Niger-Delta region this week as he is expected to launch the Ogoni land clean-up on the 2nd of June. This was confirmed in a statement issued by Mr Chijioke Amu-Nnadi, Head of Corporate Affairs unit, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in Port Harcourt on Monday. It stated that the Minister of Environment, Mrs Amina Mohammed, confirmed the date when she visited Bodo in Gokana Local Government Area of the state to inspect an oil spill clean-up demonstration. She claimed that “Buhari would return to Ogoni land where he inaugurated a fish pond in 1984 where the once flourishing pond regrettably had been destroyed by oil pollution. “The Federal Government is coming back to restore the ecosystem to what it used to be and as such restore the peoples’ source of livelihood. “We are not just committed to implementing the UNEP report but we are also going beyond that by taking steps to improve security, good governance and economy of the Niger Delta region.