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Earth Day Appeal to Clean Up Pollution in Nigeria’s Ogoniland

  • James Butty

Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan attends at the Commonwealth Youth Dialogue Breakfast held at Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, Australia, Oct. 30, 2011.

Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan attends at the Commonwealth Youth Dialogue Breakfast held at Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, Australia, Oct. 30, 2011.

A group of Nigerians in the United States marked Earth Day Sunday by calling on President Goodluck Jonathan to implement recommendations from a U.N. environmental report on the Ogoniland, in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta region.

The report, released last August, said 50 years of crude oil spills have damaged the region’s water supply and agricultural land.

Anslem John-Miller, member of the Council of Ogoni Professionals, said there should be no further oil exploration in Ogoniland until the pollution is cleaned up.

“The message we want to send out to the Ogoni people is to use this opportunity to call on the world to prevail on the Nigerian government [and] Shell Oil to immediately implement the UN environmental program report, which was released in August 2011,” he said.

The report said drinking water supplies and agricultural land in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta have been damaged by 50 years of crude oil spills. It said the cleanup could cost more than $1 billion.

Miller said his group was disappointed that Jonathan, who hails from the Niger Delta region, has not done enough to clean up the pollution.

“We really find very appalling that a president who happens to come from the Niger Delta and suffers from the same predicament as the Ogoni People will keep silent and pay a nonchalant attitude towards that kind of monumental report,” Miller said.

Following the release of the U.N. report, Jonathan set up a special committee to recommend immediate and long-term actions.

Last month, the president expressed concern at the level of environmental pollution in the Niger Delta. He challenged Shell Petroleum, Nigeria’s leading oil company, to check oil spills arising from its operations.

Jonathan also called on Shell Petroleum to actively participate in the federal government’s efforts at infrastructural development, especially power supply.

Miller said the President needs to be decisive by giving his political blessing to Shell.

In November 1995, nine Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) activists, among them the playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa, were hanged by the Nigerian government on charges of “incitement to murder.”

“The first message we want to give out is to congratulate the Ogoni people for continuing with the non-violent struggle started by MOSOP in 1990 under the leadership of Ken Saro-Wiwa, and also to pause for a moment to remember our departed heroes and heroines who sacrificed their precious lives for our survival,” Miller said.

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