ModernGhana logo
17.08.2019 Feature Article

Dr. Dekil Is Wrong On Ogoni Cleanup: Please Watch His Presentation

Dr. Dekil Is Wrong On Ogoni Cleanup: Please Watch His Presentation
LISTEN AUG 17, 2019

In this attached video published via Channels Television on July 27, 2019, Dr. Marvin Dekil is seen taking questions from two Sunrise news broadcasters. At issue is the UNEP report and Ogoni cleanup. He is obviously wrong on the construction or decision not to at the moment construct UNEP's recommended Center of Excellence (COE) in Ogoni. This is from a strategy for success standpoint, and when considering that 8 of about 25 or 30 years estimated for Ogoni cleanup and restoration project have passed with nothing significant to show.

From an uninterested, unfriendly and wicked government and $hell's, NNPC's standpoint, he is right---defending their decision not to rush the construction of the COE or not construct it at all in Ogoni. It is worth noting that Dr. Dekil, though an Ogoni, is not representing the overall interest of Ogoni. He is rather representing the interest of his employers which happens to be the Nigerian government and $hell Oil, etc.

These are the same entities which greedily and recklessly, deliberately caused the Ogoni pollution and degradation and covered things up for 50 years. If he is speaking for his employers or their mind based on internal discussions and mandate no one should be surprised. His actions are expected of heads of Nigerian state's agencies and institutions which are not independent but totally controlled by the government and those at the corridors of power in some cases.

Ogonis and others who love Ogoni and or have a sense of decency and justice will however not stop but continue to call a spade-a-spade whenever the need arise as in this circumstance. As an Ogoni person who followed and has been involved in this just struggle for over 26 years my intermittent or occasional review of the UNEP recommendations and what Nigeria is doing relative to Ogoni cleanup suffice helping to calling a spade-a-spade.

Applying direct quotation from UNEP report, which alongside Ogoni struggle is the premise for the Ogoni project has been to help the public, particularly those who may not have read the report in full or at all understand the issues and what is to be expected or demanded per the recommendations. It is also to present evidence that should challenge certain positions such as Dr. Dekil's which deviates from the facts of the report and its recommendations especially.

The Nigerian government's and $hell's (HYPREP) decision not to construct the COE may be due to the letters of the recommendation in UNEP report. These wordings could be easily read and probably misunderstood to mean: construct the center at the end of the project. If Dr. Dekil and his employers read the wordings to imply building the COE at the end of the project, meaning 25 or 30 years from the actual start date of the cleanup project then he is not right assuming he wants Ogonis and the world to believe the cleanup has started.

He is right by the fact that there is no exact date or timeline recommended for the construction of the center. The Center of Excellence's recommendation on page 227 is that it should be created "based on the experience gained from the environmental restoration of Ogoni." If these past 8 years were taken seriously by the Nigerian government, $hell Oil, NNPC and other polluters, significant experience should have been gained from the restoration project. There is, of course, gained knowledge of lost opportunities these 4 and 8 cumulative years regarding the benefit of the center stated in the report.

UNEP states that the Center of Excellence will "run training courses in environmental monitoring and restoration; enhance the capacity and skills of the Ogoni community, with opportunities for employment." It will "promote learning, both in the region and more widely, including abroad; and become a model for environmental restoration, attracting visiting experts, students, and visitors from overseas." And will "assist with business development, offering training on all aspects of setting up and running a successful company---legal, financial, technical, health and safety, etc."

It is on this note that many or most Ogonis and non-Ogonis following the report and project want the center built before the cleanup proper starts or in between these wasted 8 years, since the center deals with capacity and other resourceful training relevant to the project now, in between and when completed.

Meanwhile, Dr. Dekil is right to state that this project and UNEP report/recommendations have no compensation angle contrary to the views of some or many Ogonis and observers. My view is that monetary compensation will be needed at the end of the day if true reconciliation shall be achieved. If compensation will be traded for a state for Ogoni to meeting the political autonomy demand of Ogonis through MOSOP (see the Ogoni Bill of Rights), then Ogonis will have to decide whether to accept the trade-off.

Nigeria and $hell et al can not pollute and degrade Ogoni environment then destroy the people's sources of livelihoods and their health which have probably resulted in hydrocarbons pollution-related deaths, then turn around to say compensation will not be part of a sustainable environmental restoration and livelihoods' improvement project suggested and recommended in various sections of the UNEP's report.

It is true that UNEP had no mandate to discuss compensation the same way it had no mandate to discuss and resolve other things, including not giving detailed costing of different aspects of the recommendations, and surface water contamination so it did not recommend compensation. Nevertheless, in best practice and legally, anywhere there is pollution, whether caused recklessly and covered up as in Ogoni situation, or accidental compensation including jail times, where evidence of malpractice is obvious, follows...

In addition, Dr. Dekil/HYPREP appears to mostly conduct Ogoni cleanup, remediation and capacity building, resolution of emergency measures on social media without physical/practical evidence. He or HYPREP has not provided for public view names of the 21 Ogoni scientists alleged to have been sent for training in Switzerland. HYPREP/Dr. Dekil has also not been honest in respect of his claim that 90 percent of Ogonis are involved with the agency's workforce, while another 95 percent of Ogonis are engaged with or in HYPREP's technical team then turned around to claim that 320 Ogonis are currently on contaminated sites working. For the most part, it seems HYPREP hence Dr. Dekil is the propaganda mouthpiece of the Nigerian government on Ogoni cleanup project.

Dekil is also wrong in the video on the government and oil firms' lack of willingness to establish an Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Center (ICSMC) before allegedly commencing cleanup of contaminated sites. If contaminated sites contain contaminated soil that will be excavated where necessary and moved to be tested and treated using the various methods UNEP recommended on page 208 then the construction of the ICSMC is absolutely necessary now.

Let me hope HYPREP is not ignoring this important measure because it has been compelled by $hell and Buhari/Nigerian government to allow the contracting firms continue $hell's Remediation by Enhanced Natural Attenuation (RENA) process (and other negative methods), which UNEP recommended to be discontinued because of its ineffectiveness. The ICSMC stage is now if actual cleanup alleged to have started with contractors mostly reported to be unqualified have been mobilized to the sites as Dr. Dekil, who also said different considerations have to be made to put things in place before the center can be constructed said.

Buhari's junta has been operational for more than 4 years. How long does Dr. Dekil/HYPREP wish considerations before the construction of this center should last when actual sites' cleanup is alleged to have started? With the way HYPREP is operating it appears most UNEP's recommendations have been ignored the Nigerian way. The Center of Excellence may also not be built since Nigeria and $hell, NNPC are expecting it to come at a later time. And doing all these things wrong will not deliver the world-class environmental remediation and restoration anticipated in Ogoni.

Unfortunately, the Ogoni-born HYPREP's National Coordinator does not seems to care when he is talking about recommended emergency measures despite the importance, sense of urgency UNEP attached to the public health threats facing Ogonis. The coordinator is also wrong, not right when he implied Ogonis or people in the area/region are expecting a massive development of roads and other infrastructure development in Ogoni by HYPREP whereas it is only a project dealing specifically with cleanup and remediation, trainings and other capacity development in contaminated areas or communities which will also benefit other Ogonis.

Although Ogoni villages or communities where oil facilities are hosted have faced and still facing threatening pollution and contamination hence the immediate victims of more than 50 years of reckless pollution and degradation caused, abandoned and covered up by $hell and NNPC while the Nigerian government made billions of dollars and shared with these terrorist oil firms, the pollution and degradation, water contamination does not stagnate in host communities. Sicknesses and diseases, oil pollution-related deaths and poverty, sufferings---state and corporate-sponsored violence, genocidal acts cut across Ogoni.

Consequent of the fact that Ogoni nationality was facing severe threat, Ken Saro-Wiwa took time to prepare himself, made some internal moves and worked quietly. He sensitized the international community, exposed the genocidal conditions imposed on Ogoni and mobilized Ogonis as one people. Ogonis under the selfless and able leadership of Saro-Wiwa fought hard and paid the supreme price to stop further oil production and pollution. The Ogoni communities directly impacted did not fight this struggle alone. I do not think they are making such claim or trying to cut out the rest of Ogonis who are also victims of the oppressive and deadly system. Dr. Dekil should therefore not divide Ogoni and deny the ethnic nationality its deserved intervention.

In conclusion, UNEP report is clear among many revelations and recommendations in describing what has happened to the entire Ogoni community (as one people) while also emphasizing the sad situation that is threatening in Ogoni communities hosting oil facilities. As a result Dr. Dekil should not make himself a diversionary and divisive tool for the Nigerian government, $hell, and NNPC, others. Such divisive and crisis-prone commentaries could be a strategy by government and $hell to list directly impacted communities in Ogoni as target group, limiting work scope and cost while abandoning the rest of Ogoni that is also severely impacted indirectly via air and other forms of pollution migration.

Page 229 of UNEP report states that:
Sustainable environmental improvement in Ogoniland can only be achieved with the involvement and cooperation of the entire Ogoni community. In this respect the following elements are of critical importance: 1. The proposals outlined in this report have the potential to bring in substantial new investment, employment opportunities and a new culture of cooperation into Ogoniland. The Ogoni community should take full advantage of the opportunities that will be created by these developments. These projects potentially offer the community an unprecedented opportunity to be at the forefront of a world-class environmental restoration project that will improve their living conditions and livelihoods and provide them with skills that can be exported nationally, regionally and internationally. This is a transformative moment and the Ogoni community should endeavour to seize it in a positive manner.

UNEP makes clear the fact that Ogoni is not an Island thus pollution from Ogoni has the capacity of negatively impacting non-Ogoni communities. It cited an Andoni village which has less than 50 houses as one of such places which migrated pollution and contamination may or have affected. The report says the creeks of this village are full of hydrocarbons. To this end, if migrated pollution from Ogoni can be possible in Andoni what makes Dr. Dekil, an Ogoni man himself, think communities directly impacted in Ogoni are the only target of this project; and why will these long-term sustainable path for Ogoni be recommended if new roads and old ones will not be constructed, reconstructed or expanded at some point; what kind of long-term sustainability will succeed without good roads?

On page 204 of the report it is stated:
It is clear from UNEP’s field observations and scientific investigations that oil contamination in Ogoniland is widespread and severely impacting many components of the environment. TheOgoni people live with this pollution every minute of every day, 365 days a year. Since average life expectancy in Nigeria is less than 50 years, it is a fair assumption that most members of the current Ogoniland community have lived with chronic oil pollution throughout their lives. Children born in Ogoniland soon sense oil pollution as the odour of hydrocarbons pervades the air day in, day out. Oil continues to spill from periodic pipeline fractures and the illegal practice of artisanal refining, contaminating creeks and soil, staining and killing vegetation and seeping metres deep into ground, polluting water tables.

Furthermore, "Ogoni community is exposed to petroleum hydrocarbons in outdoor air and drinking water, sometimes at elevated concentrations. They are also exposed through dermal contacts from contaminated soil, sediments and surface water" (page 10). By these facts, UNEP says resolving only the technical aspects of the Ogoni cleanup and restoration will be a failure. It suggested a sustainable environmental restoration strategy that will by way of openness and dialogue build trust and confidence, and bring about a new understanding and cooperative spirit which will result in improving the living conditions and livelihoods of Ogonis. A cooperative spirit the report says does not exist at the time the assessment report was written.

It also does not exist now because the Nigerian government under military dictator Buhari is not honest nor respectful of Ogoni and its people. The government and oil companies have ignored many if not most of the recommendations made by UNEP and have been pushing everything down the throats of Ogonis. They have continued to pressure and divide Ogonis, causing crisis in the name of resuming oil production when their pollution of 50 years are yet to be cleaned nor attempts made to improve the people's health, living conditions and livelihoods.

According to the report, page 17: "Restoring the livelihoods and well being of future Ogoni generations is within reach but timing is crucial. Given the dynamic nature of oil pollution and the extent of contamination revealed in UNEP's study, failure to begin addressing urgent public health concerns and commencing a clean up will only exacerbate and unnecessarily prolong the Ogoni people's suffering." It also says, "the Ogoni community should take full advantage of the employment, skills development and other opportunities that will be created by the cleanup operation which is aimed at improving their living conditions and livelihoods."

Therefore Dr. Dekil should stop presenting himself as veritable tool to deceiving and further oppressing his Ogoni people. He should show some genuine concerns and act humanely, stand up for his people and respectfully use his expertise to tell the Nigerian government and $hell Oil, NNPC and others the truth. He should encourage these entities to strictly respect and implement the UNEP's recommendations to its full extent for the best result that will conduce to peace and a new positive relationship between them and Ogonis. I bet him Ogonis will give him and the government, others all the support needed. Doing contrary-wise will be counter-productive. It will impose strictures that will be unhealthy as the case presently irrespective of purchased support from few Ogonis who are not interested in Ogoni's greater good.

Thanks for taking the time to read from my desk.
Ben Ikari

ModernGhana Links

Join our Newsletter