Contrary to the recent report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on its environmental assessment of Ogoniland, the
Nigerian government early this year filed papers before the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja insisting that “there is no direct nexus between oil exploration and poverty in the Niger Delta.”
In the papers filed on 10 March 2011 and signed by TA Gazali, responding to the case instituted by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), the government said, “The Niger Delta is rich in terms of water, land, foreign and farm.
The allegation by SERAP that it is subjected to extreme degradation due to oil prospecting and that it is a direct route to poverty is vehemently denied.”
According to the government, “Poverty is an English word or phenomenon as such it signified a global presence and not only in Nigeria.
It is not every inch of the land in the Niger Delta that has oil. A good number of villages, and towns have no oil, hence poverty level in such places should not be attributed to lawful oil exploration in the region, and by extension, failure of government.”
“We admit that there are oil spills in the region. However, the spills are substantially caused by vandalization of pipelines by thugs and errands youths in the Niger Delta and the few ones that naturally occur always end in litigation and compensation ordered in favour of the victims,” the government also argued.
The government also said that, “the inability of government to initiate and complete projects can be perfectly attributed to the kidnapping of expatriates and other workers by kidnappers for ransom.”
“Oil spills happened in in 1995, and therefore statute-barred. But it is the responsibility of a licence holder to pay compensation to victims of pollution or spill. There is no way compensation can be paid until the disputes among communities as to who is rightly entitled to compensation, is resolved in our municipal courts,” the government added.
SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni said: “The UNEP report clearly contradicts the arguments put forward by the government before the ECOWAS Court.
We shall be filing very shortly the UNEP report before the ECOWAS Court in support of our case on the complicity of the government in oil pollution and the resulting violations of the human right of the people of the area to an adequate standard of living.”
Earlier, the UNEP report had said that “pollution from over 50 years of oil operations in the region has penetrated further and deeper than many may had supposed.
All sources of on-going contamination must be brought to an end before the clean-up of the creeks, sediments and mangroves could begin.”
It recommended the establishment of three new institutions to support a comprehensive environmental restoration exercise.