Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) is calling the Federal Government of Nigeria to order the withdrawal of men of the Joint Task Force JTF from Bodo community in Rivers state. Shell petroleum is said to have engaged/contracted JTF when the indigenes had a peaceful protest over Shell’s recent pollution and failure to live up to a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recommendations to cleanup Ogoni environment.
In a press statement released by ERA/FoEN on December 17, 2012, the protest in Bodo community is connected to a June 21, 2012 blow-out from a Shell facility for which the community has been mounting pressure on the company for clean- up.
Community folks allege that instead of conducting proper clean up, officials of Shell bribed some chiefs with N10 million with a request that they lie to the community members that the spill was an act of sabotage.
The bribe however angered the community people who started protests since last week. Sensing major trouble, Shell allegedly contacted the JTF which subsequently drafted that swooped on the community last Saturday.
ERA/FoEN described the massive deployment of soldiers to the community and brutalization of community people as “a provocative attempt to shield Shell from taking responsibility for its environmental crimes in Ogoni land”.
“The forceful occupation of Bodo by the JTF is totally objectionable. We must remind the Nigerian government that peaceful protest is a right of citizens in any true democracy. It is simply unacceptable for the JTF to re-enact the same brute force that did not and will not dampen the spirit of the Ogoni people to demand their lawful right to a pollution-free environment”, said ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey.
“Rather than deploy the JTF to Bodo to brutalise people already traumatised by Shell’s wanton destruction of their environment and livelihoods, the Nigerian government should deploy such energies in compelling Shell to comply with the UNEP recommendations for a thorough cleanup of the environment in Ogoniland”.
The UNEP assessment submitted to President Goodluck Jonathan on August 4, 2011 showed hydrocarbon pollution in surface water throughout the creeks of Ogoni land and up to 8cm in groundwater that feed drinking wells. Soils were found to have been polluted with hydrocarbons up to a depth of five metres in 49 observed sites, while benzene, a known cancer-causing chemical was found in drinking water at a level 900 times above World Health Organisation (WHO) acceptable levels.
The report also documented that fisheries have been destroyed and that wetlands around Ogoniland are highly degraded. These have led to irreparable loss of livelihoods and will take 30 years to correct. The report also recommended a $1 billion restoration fund for Ogoniland.
However, more than a year after its release, Shell is yet to commence remediation activities.
ERA/FoEN Director, Programmes and Administration, Godwin Uyi Ojo said: “The UNEP report is clear on what Shell should do without delay. Unfortunately, Shell has chosen to embark on a “merry-go-round”on the issues.”
“That Shell allegedly bribed community chiefs to lie about its own irresponsible actions in Bodo is the height of insult on the people and indeed the entire Niger Delta people impacted by the company’s operations. We again demand the immediate withdrawal of the JTF from the community and implementation of the UNEP report in its entirety.