“UNEP believes that oil contamination in Ogoniland has created an environmental crisis of unprecedented proportions,” Joseph Alcamo the chief scientist of UN Environment Programme, told journalists in London at the weekend.
This followed a recent revelation but the United Nations on the decades of environmental mutilation of the Niger delta by the multinational oil companies, under the watchful eyes of the Nigerian government.
With a clean up exercise to cost about a billion dollars in some 30 years, the Nigerian ruling elites and their international business partners have definitely made a name for themselves.
This is the Niger delta – business vs the respect for land.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“By the time Nigeria became politically independent in October 1960, agriculture was the dominant sector of the economy, contributing about 70% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), employing about the same percentage of the working populationÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ The early period of post-independence up until mid-1970s saw a rapid growth of industrial capacity and output, as the contribution of the manufacturing sector to GDP rose from 4.8% to 8.2%,Ã¢â‚¬Â The Impact of Oil on NigeriaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Economic Policy Formulation, Biodun Adedipe, Lagos Nigeria.
It is important to note that the gigantic infrastructures that are now decaying in places like Lagos, Ibadan or Benin were all built outside the oil revenue.
Names like NIFOR (Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research) in Benin and other equivalent agricultural research institutes were of no small relevance to the Nigerian people, because they were rightly aimed at helping the local population to feed themselves through their own labour and earn income by exporting their agricultural proceeds abroad.
With the beginning of petroleum exploration in Nigeria, meaning that the Nigerian farmers would now have access to petrol chemical products Ã¢â‚¬â€œ (from fertilizer to increase their agricultural yields to diverse insecticides to control pests), it was natural to hope that the Nigerian state would not only better feed its population but also contribute in feeding the starving people of the world.
The irony, however, is that not only did oil not increase agricultural productivity in Nigeria, but that the oil activities have grossly ruined a great percentage of the Nigerian farmland, especially in the Niger delta, so that many years after oil would have dried up in Nigerian, the local people would no longer be able to cultivate their land and feed their children.
Thanks to both many Nigerian politicians and some local chiefs who have chosen to pursue their personal interest and ignored the continues survival of their own people, the European and American multinational oil companies have been able to mutilate the Niger delta for more than 50 years. They have turned the Niger delta and its more than 30 million people into a big cow that needs to be milked with all cruelty, and to be abandoned to its fate, if it ever gets dry.
Quite unkindly, it should have been understood that it is not the duty of Shell or Chevron Oil Company to fight for the ecological right of the Niger delta; it is equally not the fight of Amnesty International or the United Nations. It is more of the duty of the Nigerian government and the people of the Niger delta to save their own land.
This is better understood, calling to mind the peaceful campaign of Ken Saro-wiwa. He both played his role as an indigene of the land (in ruin), and he equally reminded the Nigerian state that there will be consequences for the loose oil exploration in the Niger delta.
As if those who managed the Nigerian system would be rewarded with another land, they decided to silent the voice of reason. On the 10th of November 1995, Ken and his eight colleagues were executed by the Nigerian state.
If the recent finding by the United Nations is anything to be taken seriously, it means that, after all, Ken and every other Nigerian who have paid the ultimate price to save the Niger delta never really died in vain.
It means that all conscious Nigerians should accept the reality that one day, Shell and the billions of dollars it has made in Nigeria will return to Europe and Chevron will return to America, leaving both the Nigerian ruling elites and the ordinary people to stay in their land. It is their only land; the only part of the world they can freely stay without been called foreigners.
Also because, the respect for land is not a philosophy.
With a minimum of maturity, we all do know that our lives depends on our land, so if we do not know that we need to treat our land with respect, it means that we do not know anything.