Following the UN report indicting Shell (a major oil company in Niger-Delta) over its operations particularly in the Ogoni land, the Senate, deliberated on the cleanup fund of $1billion. Chibuzo Ukaibe, captured the issues raised.

Last week, the Senate? debated the United Nations Report on the Ogoni land Oil Spillage, (bordering on the recommended $1 billion for cleanup of the area). In what appears to be a season of retribution for Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) over its activities in the Niger Delta, the UN (Environmental Programme), after a two-year investigation accused Shell of being responsible for the Ogoniland pollution.?
This chilling report was coming at a period when Shell is facing a law suit in the United States instituted by? a London based oil and gas industry watch dog. The platform accused Shell, the Dutch owned company of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to feuding militant groups as well as government forces that attacked, tortured and killed Nigerians living in the creeks and swamplands in the region.
Although the Dutch parliament had beaten its Nigerian counterpart on debating the issue, the import of the deliberations by the Nigerian Senate was not lost. On many levels, the debate underscored the inefficiencies of the federal government over the years vis-a-vis a weak monitoring mechanism including legal frame-work for the oil exploration operations of the Oil majors as well as the insensitivity of the government to the plight of the people in the region- which occasioned the deliberate neglect (indeed inexcusable) of the oil companies.
However, with the debate came a tinge of hope. Beyond the resounding condemnation of Shell, the senate resolved to close ranks in the fight against the neglect of oil producing communities. A motion chiefly sponsored by Northern Senators Datti Baba-Ahmed (Kaduna North), and Nenadi Usman (Kaduna South), with senators George Sekibo (Rivers East) and Magnus Abbe (Rivers South East) co sponsoring captures the new position of the upper chamber.
Leading the debate on the UN spillage report, Senators Datti Baba-Ahmed noted that the $1 billion recommended by UN for clean up was unrepresentative of the true situation in Ogoni land, and grossly inadequate for the enormous task. He added that the proposed fund overlooked the issues of compensation to communities, and rehabilitation of deprived, destabilised and displaced persons.
He therefore prayed the Senate to urge the federal government to review upwards the proposed $1 billion to meet with the realities of environmental degradation, social deprivations and economic dislocation in the region.
Form thereon, senators took turn to express their displeasure at the operations of oil exploration in Nigeria since its inception blaming the abuse on the weak legal framework which was also highlighted in the UN report. The weakness they believe has made the oil majors to undermine Nigerians.
They noted that shortly after the recent oil spillage caused by British Petroleum at the Gulf of Mexico the oil company was quick to respond to the spillage because the US Government has a sold legal framework on ground compelling the multi-national company to be sensitive to the spillage.?
Though Senator Nurudeen Abbati averred that the $1billion was only for a stage in a three stage process, senators wholly criticized the seed money as inadequate. More arguments bothered on the whether or not the communities affected should have been considered alongside the clean up process as the hazardous health conditions occasioned by the water condition in the area were pervasive.
It was also noted that such environmental devastation caused by exploration was not exclusive to the Niger Delta alone; according to Senator Dahiru Umar he cited the tin mining activities in Jos and other areas to buttress his point.
While the issue of disbursement of the money was brought up, it was revealed by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP) that in this first stage of the remedial scheme, the monies would not find its way into any Nigerian hands.
Still, it was not uhuru yet on the collection of the money as the legal framework for the collection and utilisation of the money is not there.?
As such they directed its committees on Petroleum Upstream, Environment and Niger Delta to do a review of the report of the UN with a view to establish the adequacy or otherwise of the proposal; with a view to ensure the implementation of the United Nations $1 billion recommendations.
The committees were also asked to examine the legal frameworks necessary for the implementation of the UN recommendation and present their report in eight weeks.
Senators who spoke on the motion include; Ifeanyi Okowa (PDP), Olugebenga Kaka(ACN), Magnus Abe (PDP), Buka Abba Ibrahim (PDP), Emmanuel Paulker (PDP), Nkechi Nwoagu (PDP), Abubakar Bukola Saraki (PDP), Umaru Dahiru (PDP), Aisha Alhassan (PDP), Ahmed Lawan (ANPP), Robert Ajayi Borrofice (LP).
Cueing in on the unifying value the senate brings to the issue, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided, said the thoughtfulness of the discussion, which was raised as raised by a senator outside the region has reaffirmed that the senate indeed is the epicentre of unity in Nigeria.
Emphasising how sensitive the issue is to Nigerians and not just the Niger Deltans alone, Ekweremadu said the senate will ensure that $1 billion is implemented.
However some analysts wonder why it took this long to deliberate on the issue. Underscoring the delay in taking action on the matter, the Dutch parliament having deliberated on the matter, a top official of the Dutch government at the weekend kept on the front burner efforts to bring lasting stability to the Niger Delta.
The position of the government was articulated by Dutch parliament and a representative of the country’s foreign affairs ministry in charge of the horn of Africa, East Africa and West Africa, Sharon Gesthuizen, who led the delegation to Nigeria in February.
She observed that the Netherlands government had over the years not paid adequate attention to the situation in the Niger delta where she said people were living in abject poverty in the midst of abundant natural resources.
Recounting her visit to Nigeria, she witnessed gas flaring, environment pollution, oil theft, uneducated children and was detained by men of the joint task force (JTF).
She accused the oil majors and Nigerian government officials of culpability for the crisis in the Niger Delta and charged shell to clean up the environment and listen to the sincere yearning of the people for development.
Although the buck stops with the Executive arm of government, analysts opine that the National Assembly is to ensure that the report is implemented to the letter while enacting more laws that will better the lots of the Ogoni people and Niger Delta as a whole.
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