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NACGOND

 

A Research Paper Written By Dornwile R. Apenu (an Intern with NACGOND)

Editted by Benjamin A. Ubleble, PhD

Introduction

Environmental pollution occurs in cases where contaminants are introduced into the environment. In most cases, pollution is often man made. This imply that anthropogenic activities often occur due to exploration for resources. Pollutants originate from a number of sources resulting in different kinds of hazards. Such hazards may contaminate the soil, water and air quality. In whichever way pollution may occur, the impact is always more on environmental resources. Usually, where pollution occurs, it affects habitats thereby lowering survival of various forms of life. This trend leads to loss of biodiversity. Biodiversity is the availability of various specie organisms such as plants, animals, microorganisms and by extension, all animate things present in any ecosystem (Australian Museum, 2015).1. Marine biodiversity on the other hand connotes various specie organisms found in fresh water bodies, estuaries, swamps, mangroves, oceans as the case may be. Due to high level pollution, loss of biodiversity is acute in marine life within the Niger Delta of Nigeria. 

Marine life simply put is all living things found within the water environment (oceans and seas). Marine life requires a healthy water body for the flourishing of various forms of lives. Living things found within it and near coastal areas consist of highly valuable and diverse species. The richness of this marine life has survived centuries of exploration activities seeing people fishing from it as well as deriving other forms of livelihoods from it. Marine resources such as sea food over the years have predominantly serve as major sources of protein to coastal communities in the Niger Delta. Apart from this, marine resources have supplemented as sources of income for fishing communities who depend exclusively on such items for local economy. Various forms of marine life such as plants, animals and organisms that live in the salt water of the sea or ocean, or the brackish water of coastal estuaries (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_life)2 are always the first target of destruction in any case of marine pollution.  

Characterization of marine life 

Marine life basically can best be characterized into any of the following three species: 

1. Benthos

2. Nekton

3. Plankton

Benthos are organisms that live in and on the bottom of the ocean floor. They include worms, clams, crabs, lobsters, sponges and other tiny organisms that live in the bottom sediments (Woke, 2015)3. Nektons are swimming animals such as fishes that move independently of water currents. Planktons are small floating organisms that are carried along by the currents. Examples are phytoplankton (plant-like) and zooplankton (animal-like). Common causes of pollution in the Niger Delta marine environment include plastics, industrial wastes, oil spills etc. 

The largest factor affecting the oceans is plastic wastes disposal directly into ocean bodies (www.alternet.org/environment/how-ocean-pollution-impacts-marine-life-and-all-of-us)4, of which 80 per cent of marine debris is plastic. Discarded plastic bags, six pack rings and other forms of plastic waste which often finish up in the ocean present danger to aquatic life. Aquatic life can be threatened through entanglement, suffocation and ingestion. Plastics present a major hazard to seabird, fish and other marine creatures. For example, plastic fishing lines and other debris can strangle and choke fish. (This is sometimes called ghost fishing). Sea creatures that are killed by plastics readily decompose but the plastic does not. It remains in the ecosystem to kill again and again (Woke, 2015). Over the last decade, we have produced more plastic than we have in the last 100 years. This sharp increase in plastic entering our waters harm not only marine life but also humanity.

 

One of the sources of damage to coastal living resources is thermal pollution. Industries and factories discharge effluents and hot water into the sea; this is causing thermal pollution. Heat is an important form of energy that impacts on the aquatic environment. The waste heat often gets released into the aquatic environment leading to a term called thermal pollution. Rampant discharge of hot effluents into coastal environment is quite common off the coasts of major industrialized towns of the Niger Delta region such as Warri and Port Harcourt. When the temperature of the water changes, metabolism of marine animals are inadvertently altered. Thermal pollution also causes mass fish kills and forced migration of fish species to other regions. 

 

Oil spill is a major contributor to environmental pollution in the Niger Delta. Oil can be spilled on the water body through exploration activities, engines of sea vehicles, inadequate equipment and accidents. Crude oil lasts for years on the sea and is extremely toxic to marine life. Ingestion of oil causes dehydration and impaired digestion (G.N.Woke, 2015) in marine organisms. Oil spilled in the ocean could get to the gills of marine organisms, causing difficulty in their respiration. Oil spills into ocean bodies may hamper such important activities from taking place. More so, it may prevent sunlight from reaching the marine plants as it floats on the surface of the water and alters photosynthesis.

 

Ships can also pollute waterways and oceans in many ways, also creating noise pollution that disturbs natural wildlife. Pollution reduces the amount of oxygen in the ocean. It also increases the biological oxygen demand and as a result, marine organisms like crustaceans and other seafood reducing their abundance in the Niger Delta. Most of those species are becoming endangered and may be on their way to extinction. Plastic debris could possibly cause the deaths of up to a million seabirds every year. The impact of environmental pollution in the Niger Delta is not only seen on marine life alone but on people as well in terms of loss of livelihoods. Most people are predominantly fisher men so diminishing fish content in the region is resulting in high cost of living for those dependent on such means of livelihood. The protein from fishes and other seafood can no longer be sourced easily since seafood is disappearing. Apart from the direct impact on living resources, marine pollutants tend to adversely alter or degrade the environment to extreme conditions that are beyond the tolerant or adaptation limits of the living resources therein.

 

Marine pollution is totally unavoidable due to global population explosion and technological innovations by man. However, it was asserted that the problem could be minimized through careful management (Elenwo and Akankali, 2015)6.  

Conclusion

To solve this overwhelming issue in the Niger Delta, effort must be put in place by authorities, individuals and industries to mitigate the effect of pollution in the region. That will require both social and political will together with a shift in awareness so more people respect the environment and are less disposed to abusing it. At an operational level, regulations must be put in place to mitigate impact of marine pollution. Secondly, there is need for international cooperation by various trans national governments in marine sanitation and control of sea disposal.  Environmental laws should be enacted and the marine environment should not be left out, to prevent further damage, as environmental laws will make it tougher for people to pollute the marine environment (Woke, 2015). Balanced information on the sources and harmful effects of marine pollution need to become part of general public awareness as a way of reducing impact. 

On the part of communities around the near coast areas, there is need for adequate sensitization on how they can be mindful of their activities. They should be taught on how to go about their fishing activities in a sustainable manner. The use of chemicals for fishing should also be discouraged as all these will help conserve fish species. Industries should also be mindful of their activities. There should be a law banning industries from disposing directly into water bodies; rather they should encourage reduce, reuse, and recycling of wastes to curb marine pollution.

Most importantly, efforts need to be put in place to clean up the affected environment to restore it to a more favourable state for marine organisms to thrive. Other measures recommended to the government and other agencies include: aggressive enlightenment and sensitization in coastal communities, economic empowerment of residents of coastal communities, strict enforcement of relevant laws concerning the abuse of the seas and setting up scientific committees which will collaborate with such international committees to solve localized problems in the affected areas.

Endnotes

1 Australian Museum (2015). What is Biodiversity? Retrieved from https//australianmuseum.net.au/what-is-biodiversity1.

2     Woke, G.N.(2015). Hydrobiology

3     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_life 

4   www.alternet.org/environment/how-ocean-pollution-impacts-marine-life-and-all-    of-us

5  Elenwo, E.I. and Akankali, J.A. (2015). The effects of marine pollution on Nigerian. Coastal resources. Journal of Sustainable Development Studies

6   animal.mom.me/effects-of-thermal-pollution-on-marine-life

7   https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/pollution.what-is-the-biggest-source-of-pollution-in-the-ocean? (2015-11-22)

8  www.bluevoices.org/the-effects-of-ocean-pollution-on-marine-mammals-BobBohle

 

The Abia State Secondary School Competition held at the Green Global Hotel Ltd along Port Harcourt Aba road on Tuesday 23rd July 2019 by 10.00am by the Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy and Development (FENRAD) in collaboration with National Coalition against Oil Spills and Gas Flaring in Niger Delta (NACGOND) with support from Dutch Embassy. Five schools from Abia State made it to the final quiz competition as the representative of the entire schools that have NACGOND's Environmental Clubs in Abia State. 

The activity has shown significant impact on the students and their immediate environment as they now engage their peers and parents that lack basic environmental hygiene and knowledge in series of environmental education and sanitation practices in their various communities and schools.

 

Bayelsa State Governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson has berated international oil companies over what he referred to as, ‘insensitivity to the plight of oil producing communities in the Niger Delta.’

He stated that over the years, the accumulated effects of their activities were beginning to have its toll on the people of oil producing states, as they have impacted adversely on the lives of the people, especially Bayelsa, where oil companies have the bulk of their operations.

“I have said it before that what has been going on in Bayelsa State and in all oil producing areas concerning the levity with which oil companies treat the issues of the environment and the maintenance of environmental and health standards is unimaginable.

“We all have a duty to keep the environment safe and hand it to our children’s children, the same way our parents handed it over to us. Already, in our villages and communities, we can see what is happening; the accumulated effects of several years of oil exploration and exploitation; a regime of lack of transparency and accountability by oil companies, who are operating in this area because they have no respect for our laws and even our lives”, he said.

He urged Non-Governmental Organizations and other well-meaning groups to join Government in championing the cause of protecting the environment for the sake of posterity.

In the same vein, the Governor condemned the activities of pipeline vandals and operators of illegal refineries for their unpatriotic acts, calling on the people of the state to see the fight against such crimes as a collective one, adding that his administration would create awareness on compliance to standard practice as regards the environment.

“Of recent, our own people have added to the environmental challenges even in a more direct and insidious way. They break pipelines where crude oil flows freely on our precious great land, spoiling our rivers and destroying our ecosystem.”

According to him, the Government would strive to ensure adherence to environmental sanitation laws of the state to keep Yenagoa, the state capital clean and green in line with the tourism drive of the restoration agenda, as it is the most important heritage.

 

Governor Dickson remarked that his administration was in the process of working on initiatives to improve on the sanitary situation of communities, especially in Yenagoa and called on the people to support government to accomplish the task of safeguarding the environment.

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Background:

The health hazards created by oil exploration and exploitation are covert and slow in action. They are not given the deserved attention in official documents in Nigeria, even as they can be major contributors to the disease burden in oil-bearing communities. This study is an interpretation of the data reported in several published studies on crude oil spills in the Niger delta region, Nigeria.

Materials and Methods:

A manual and Internet search was conducted to extract quantitative data on the quantity of crude oil spilled; the concentrations of the pollutants in surface water, ground water, ambient air and plant and animal tissue; and the direct impact on human health and household food security.

 

Results:

An average of 240,000 barrels of crude oil are spilled in the Niger delta every year, mainly due to unknown causes (31.85%), third party activity (20.74%), and mechanical failure (17.04%). The spills contaminated the surface water, ground water, ambient air, and crops with hydrocarbons, including known carcinogens like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon and benxo (a) pyrene, naturally occurring radioactive materials, and trace metals that were further bioaccumulated in some food crops. The oil spills could lead to a 60% reduction in household food security and were capable of reducing the ascorbic acid content of vegetables by as much as 36% and the crude protein content of cassava by 40%. These could result in a 24% increase in the prevalence of childhood malnutrition. Animal studies indicate that contact with Nigerian crude oil could be hemotoxic and hepatotoxic, and could cause infertility and cancer.

Conclusions:

The oil spills in the Niger delta region have acute and long-term effects on human health. Material relief and immediate and long-term medical care are recommended, irrespective of the cause of the spill, to ensure that the potential health effects of exposures to the spills are properly addressed.

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A succession of oil spills by Shell and other companies over half a century will cost $1bn to clean up, according to a major report.

Devastating oil spills in the Niger delta over the past five decades will cost $1bn to rectify and take up to 30 years to clean up, according to a UN report.

The UN Environment Programme (Unep) has announced that Shell and other oil firms systematically contaminated a 1,000 sq km (386 sq mile) area of Ogoniland, in the Niger delta, with disastrous consequences for human health and wildlife.

Nigerians had "paid a high price" for the economic growth brought by the oil industry, said UNEP's executive director.

A leaked summary of Unep's Ogoniland study, the first large-scale scientific study of pollution in the area, has been seen by the Guardian. It calls for a clean-up fund of $1bn (£614m) for spills in Ogoniland, and says it will take 25-30 years to restore the environment. Much of the funding for the clean-up is expected to come from the oil companies.

The three-year investigation found:

• Heavy contamination of land and underground water courses, sometimes more than 40 years after oil was spilled.

• Community drinking water with dangerous concentrations of benzene and other pollutants.

• Soil contamination more than five metres deep in many areas studied.

• Most of the spill sites oil firms claimed to have cleaned still highly contaminated.

• Evidence of oil firms dumping contaminated soil in unlined pits.

• Water coated with hydrocarbons more than 1,000 times the level allowed by Nigerian drinking water standards.

• Failure by Shell and others to meet minimum Nigerian or own standards.

The study wants emergency measures taken to warn communities and to clean up drinking-water wells, and says Shell and other companies working in the delta should overhaul the way they operate.

Achim Steiner, a UN under-secretary general and Unep's executive director, said the report provided the scientific basis for a long overdue restoration of Ogoniland. "The oil industry has been a key sector of the Nigerian economy for over 50 years but many Nigerians have paid a high price. It is Unep's hope the findings can break the decades of deadlock in the region. [The study] offers a blueprint for how the oil industry and public authorities might operate more responsibly in Africa and beyond at a time of increasing production and exploration across many parts of the continent."

 

Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International and director of Environment Rights Action in Nigeria, said: "The widespread pollution of Ogoniland as documented does not come as a surprise because the manifestation is physical and people have been living in that putrid situation for decades now. Now we know it will take up to 30 years to remediate the impacts, especially on the mangroves of the region." He said the pollution had decimated the livelihoods of the Ogoni people."Unep's recommendation that an environmental restoration fund for Ogoniland be set up with a take-off sum of $1bn is applauded. But we need a larger fund for the entire Niger delta."

 

Responding to the Unep report, Mutiu Sunmonu, the managing director of the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, said it was a valuable aid to improving understanding of oil spills in Ogoniland. "All oil spills are bad – bad for local communities, bad for the environment, bad for Nigeria and bad for [the company]. Although we haven't produced oil in Ogoniland since 1993 we clean up all spills from our facilities, whatever the cause, and restore the land to its original state.

 

"The majority of oil spills in Nigeria are caused by sabotage, theft and illegal refining. We urge the Nigerian authorities to do all they can to curb such activity, and we will continue working with our partners in Nigeria, including the government, to solve these problems and on the next steps to help clean up Ogoniland."

Environment groups and Ogonis welcomed the report but said $100bn was needed to clean up the entire delta, beyond just Ogoniland. Friends of the Earth International called on Shell to come up with an action plan with the Nigerian government to commence remediation actions immediately.

The Guardian has revealed that Shell accepted responsibility for two massive oil spills in the region that devastated a 69,000-strong community. Combined, the spills could be larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska, and Shell faces a bill of hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation.

 

The Unep team collected more than 4,000 samples of soil, fish and air, and investigated, in depth, 69 of the many hundreds of oil spills in Ogoniland over the past 50 years. They studied 5,000 medical records and had 260 meetings with communities.

It is expected that the report will act as a baseline study for a massive clean-up operation required by the UN.

Oil drilling in Ogoniland ceased in the 90s after Shell was ejected for widespread pollution and failing to help regional development. More than £30bn of oil has been extracted from the area but the majority of people are worse off than before the companies arrived.

"Even though oil operations have ceased in Ogoniland, oil spills continue to occur in alarming regularity. Since life expectancy in Nigeria is less than 50 years it is a fair assumption most people in Ogoniland have lived with chronic oil pollution throughout their lives," the report says. "Ogoniland has a tragic history of pollution but systematic scientific information has been absent about the ensuing contamination." Oil company records and investigations of spills in the delta are heavily disputed and politically sensitive, and the UN has been careful not to apportion blame for any particular spill.

Because Shell's subsidiary, the Shell Petroleum Development Company, which works in partnership with the Nigerian government, has been the largest operator in the region, the report will be seen as an investigation of their practices. The independent report was paid for in part by Shell, and commissioned by the Nigerian government.

The UN team was clearly shocked at some of their findings. In one place, Ejama Ebubu, the study found heavy contamination from a spill that took place more than 40 years ago "despite repeated clean up attempts". In Nisisoken Ogale, in Eleme, close to a Nigerian national petroleum company pipeline, researchers found 8cm of refined oil floating on groundwater that served community wells.

 

"Pollution of soil is extensive, widespread and severely impacting," says the report, which will be presented to Nigeria's president, Goodluck Jonathan, in Abuja on Thursday and will be released on Friday in London.

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Our Vision

NACGOND envisions a Niger Delta that is free from Environmental degradation.

 

Our Mission

Promoting environmental sustainability and livelihood security through involvement of all stakeholders

 

Our Strengths

  • Focused solution-based engagement on gas flaring and oil spills.
  • The geographical strength of member groups.
  • Our international partners.
  • Our credibility and independence.
  • Research and evidence-based approach. 
  • Advocating for peaceful and constructive dialogue.
  • To address the already failed system of oil spill and gas flare response currently practiced by Government and oil majors through a non-violent approach
  • To ensure that all Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) must be made participatory and transparent in order to restore confidence in the present broken system.
  • To develop a platform for focused and critical dialogue between oil producing communities, civil society groups, oil majors and the Nigerian government to identify the problems with the current oil spill and gas flare response system, plus finding workable long term sustainable solutions.
  • To develop a new independent mechanism that would conform to international best practice to prevent, identify, respond to and quickly compensate for oil spills, however they are caused.
  • To work towards the involvement of civil society in independent monitoring of EIA reports, major oil and gas deals, infrastructure and installations (refineries, LNG projects etc.).
  • To build the capacity of the different stakeholders, especially local oil producing communities on oil spills reporting, mitigation and processes.
  • To facilitate research on the different issues relating to gas flaring and oil spills especially on impacts, policy and legislative frameworks and institutions.
  • To advocate for a reduction or an end to the incidents of gas flaring in the Niger Delta.

 

Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN)

Gas Alert for Sustainable Initiative (GASIN)

Centre for Environmental Right and Development (CEHRD)

Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP)

Ijaw Youth Council (IYC)

Ijaw National Congress (INC)

Niger Delta Environment and Relief Foundation (NIDEREF)

Gender and Development Action (GADA)

Centre for Ethnic and Conflict Studies (CENTECS)

Foundation for the Conservation of the Earth (FOCONE)

Pronatura International (PNI)

Kebtetkache Women Development and Resource Centre

Youth Awareness Programme (YAP)

Care and Development Centre

Bayelsa NGO Forum (BANGOF)

Niger Delta Wetland Centre (NDWC)

Leadership Initiative for Transformation and Empowerment

Centre for Niger Delta Studies (CNDS)

Foundation for Environmental Right and Development (FENRAD)

Green Concern for Development (GREENCODE)

Peace Point Action (PPA)

African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development

Environmental Health & Safety Network

Poverty Alleviation for the Poor Initiative

Coalition of Bonny NGOs for Human Rights and Sustainable Development 

 

National Coalition on Gas Flaring and Oil Spills in the Niger Delta (NACGOND) is a partnership of twenty member civil society groups that seek to address the lingering environmental degradation associated with oil spill, gas flare and illegal oil bunkering in the Niger Delta. It is also a vehicle that civil society groups can use to proactively suggest tangible solutions to the key issues surrounding oil spills and gas flaring.

NACGOND’s major approach is grounded in research and evidence based advocacy, which aims to ensure that issues of oil spills and gas flaring are immediately fixed, however they are caused. It also ensures that techniques for oil exploration activities and clean-up exercise used by International Oil Companies (IOCs) and responsible regulatory agencies adhere to international best practices.

The coalition was formally launched on the 16th of June, 2011 after a multi-stakeholder meeting involving Niger Delta nationality groups, civil society actors, state actors and the oil industry, facilitated by Chatham House, London.

NACGOND's geographical focus is the Niger Delta and our core thematic areas are: Good Governance,Oil Spills & Gas Flaring, Environmental sustainability and livelihood.

The decision of the United States to stop the importation of Nigeria’s light blend of crude oil due to the shale oil boom has exposed the US refineries to the dangers associated with the processing of lighter shale oil.

As a result of the increased domestic production of shale oil, the US has slashed crude  oil imports from a peak of almost 14 million barrels per day in 2006, to slightly above 7 million barrels per day.
Crude oil import from Nigeria, one of the principal sources of light crude, was also slashed from more than 1 million barrels per day in 2010 to zero in July 2014.

But the US refineries, Reuters has reported, are designed to handle medium blend crude as against the much lighter shale oil being produced in the country to replace imports from Nigeria and others.
US refiners are said to have shown a strong preference for a medium blend, but almost all the oil being produced as a result of the shale boom is much lighter than the refineries can handle.

Reuters reported that while imports of medium-heavy and heavy grades of crude oil (with specific gravity of less than 30 degrees) have remained roughly constant at 4.5 to 5 million barrels per day since 2007, imports of medium-light and light oils have dropped from 6 million barrels per day to just over 2 million.
Imports of the lightest grades of oil, the closest substitutes for domestic shale production, have been reduced from 2.5 million barrels in 2007 per day to just 500,000 in the first seven months of 2014, according to US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The sudden change in the grades of crude oil processed by the refineries were said to have threatened the capacity of the plants to blend the different grades to derive the required quality of refined products.

The refineries are said to be conscious of the quality and density of crude oil as “crude varies considerably in terms of density, acidity, type of hydrocarbon molecules they contain, and presence of impurities such as sulphur and heavy metals such as nickel and vanadium.”

For instance, if the crude oil contains too much acid or salt, the refinery’s equipment will be damaged by corrosion, while with too many heavy metals, the catalysts that aid refining will be poisoned.

On the other hand, too much sulphur will make the crude too hard to meet specifications for petroleum products.

Also, if the crude oil is of the wrong density, it will be impossible to maximise the efficiency of the refinery’s distillation tower and other units.

The average density of crude oil processed in the US refineries since 1985 has been fairly steady and in statistical terms, the weighted average specific gravity has been 31.1 degrees with a standard deviation of just 0.7 degrees.

But according to EIA’s US crude oil production forecast, analysis of crude oil types released in May 2014, “roughly 96 percent of the 1.8 million barrels per day growth in (domestic) production between 2011 and 2013 consisted of grades with American Petroleum Institute (API) gravity of 40 or above.”

To handle the lighter shale oil, the US refiners need to reconfigure their plants to handle a lighter average blend, but that would take time and involves costly investment.

The simpler option, it was learnt, would be to lift the ban on crude oil exports and allow US refiners to continue to import and refine more of the heavier oil they prefer.

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