WORLD PRESS CONFERENCE HELD AT EKAKPAMRE
OIL SPILLAGE AND FIRE DISASTER IN FOUR URHOBO COMMUNITIES
ON SEPTEMBER 17-18, 1999, IN UGHELLI SOUTH LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF DELTA STATE OF NIGERIA
On Friday September 17 1999, another major tragedy befell the Urhobo people. An oil spill occurred on the Ughelli Quality Control Centre-Rapele Oil pipeline owned by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC). The spill resulted in a fire that devastated the farmlands and environment of the Ughievwen communities of Ekakpamre, Ighwrekreka, Ughevwughe, Ekrejegbe and Otor-Edo. The inferno affected several kilometers of the delicate ecosystem of wetlands along the river that runs through the territory. The disaster caused unquantifiable damage to animal and plant life. Irreplaceable biodiversity has been wiped. Thousands of people are now rendered economic refugees. This is one of the worst environmental disasters to happen in Urhobo country in 40 years of oil exploration. It occurred exactly eleven (11) months after the Jesse fire that killed 1063 people in October 1998. The entire people of the Urhobo nation have taken up this latest disaster as a challenge, which must be responded to vigorously and relentlessly.
This world Press Conference/Rally organised by the Urhobo National Assembly (UNA) is to express sympathy with the victims of the disaster. We pledge to stand by them to defend them and struggle with them until justice is done.
2.WE REJECT SABOTAGE CLAIM
We categorically reject the charges of sabotage being peddled by Shell and its mercenary propagandists. This is a familiar charge levelled against innocent and peace-loving hosts in the Niger Delta by Shell, NNPC and the other multinationals. The sabotage story is a deliberate attempt by Shell to confuse the global community. It is a diabolic ploy to escape responsibility. The allegation is also intended to divert attention, to intimidate the victims and the Nigerian government. We call on the Federal Ministry of Environment, the National Assembly, the Delta State Government and the security agencies not to allow themselves to be intimidated by this cheap blackmail.
3. INDEPENDENT INQUIRY
We hold Shell responsible for the disaster. Shell has claimed that it is conducting an investigation. In pursuit of this, we hear that "independent experts" and "international bomb specialists" are to be brought from overseas. We have no confidence in this investigation by Shell and its joint venture partners. In the past 40 years such attempts were used to cover up atrocities and to deceive our people. Therefore, we demand an INDEPENDENT investigation by a genuinely international team comprising experts from China, Iraq, Iran, Syria, South Africa and North Korea. They will work with specialists, environmentalists and lawyers nominated by the Urhobo people and the Government of Delta State. The outcome of their work will be made public, available to the United Nations and the international community.
4. N100 BILLION COMPENSATION
This oil spill and the resultant fire have caused incalculable damage to economic and social life. The disaster has destroyed the precious BIODIVERSITY of the delicate ecosystem of the Niger Delta. Rare species of plant, animal and aquatic life have been lost forever. Genetic pools and sanctuaries which took millions of years to evolve have been wiped out. Some of these life forms are found only in the Niger Delta; they do not exist anywhere else ion the world. By destroying them Shell has deprived humanity of these precious creations of God and Nature. It is a grave act of ECOCIDE. Therefore, Shell and its joint venture partners must pay compensation for the restoration of social and natural life to its pre-fire level. For this purpose, we demand a modest compensation of N100 BILLION (ONE HUNDRED BILLION NAIRA) [$1 billion -- editor] for all the communities afflicted by this tragedy.
5. FORTY YEARS HOLOCAUST
Urhoboland accounts for over 20 percent of Nigeria's oil production and over 50 PERCENT of natural gas. Every year Nigeria reaps at least N2OO BILLION from oil in Urhobo land. In the past 40 years, about THREE TRILLION NAIRA of revenue has come from Urhobo land. Every day, about N250 million worth of natural gas is flared in Urhobo territory. Urhobo natural gas fuels electricity plants in Ughelli, Sapele and Egbin near Lagos. In spite of these massive contributions to Nigeria's economy, Urhobo land has nothing to show for it- no all season roads, no federal higher institutions, no employment, no hospital facilities, no reliable electricity supply; not even a federal minister.
For 40 long years, Shell has turned Urhoboland into HELL. Shell has exploited our land, devastated the environment and ruined socio-economic life. Urhobo people have now resolved to terminate their suffering. They are now determined to liberate themselves from this oil-induced HELL, to safeguard their environment and protect their life. We demand compensation for Environmental Reparation and Restoration.
6. IMMEDIATE DEMANDS
(i). Independent investigation of the tragedy with experts from China, Iraq, Iran, Syria, South Africa and North Korea.
(ii).. Emergency clean-up of all polluted lands and water courses.
(iii).. Payment of N100 Billion for the September 17 disaster.
(iv).. Provision of humanitarian relief to the victims until socio-economic life is restored to pre-disaster level.
(v). Stoppage of oil exploration works in the area until all demands
7. We acknowledge the prompt response of the Ministry of Environment to the disaster. We also note the assistance of the Delta State Government and the Ughelli South Local Government to the communities in distress. The Federal Government of Nigeria must ensure that Shell and its joint-venture partners meet the minimum demands set out above. We commend the support of the media and the international community in exposing this environmentally tragedy. The Urhobo National Assembly salutes the affected communities for their courage and patience in the face of provocative propaganda by Shell. We assure them and all Urhobo people that we shall stand by them and struggle with them all the way until justice is done.
Thank you for your solidarity.
Chief Senator David O.Dafinone, OFR
Chief Johnson Ukueku FPSN
Chief Patrick Okitiakpe
Mr Omah Odoh-Tadafe