The Niger Delta and the UNEP Report
My company, Advanced Simplicity has been trying to address the remediation and restoration of the Niger Delta for a number of years now. I visited Nigeria in 2012 to present to NOSDRA whilst also meeting with a number of people regarding the issues. At the time there was something that struck me that is still very apparent to this day. That is, the UNEP report. The UNEP report has been repeatedly touted as the saving grace for the Niger Delta. There are constant demands for the ‘implementation of the UNEP’ within the Nigerian media.
But my question is, “Who has read the UNEP report?” My experience whilst in Nigeria and since that time is that the answer is, not many. The point of my concern is that the UNEP report is not the be all and end all. In fact, it is just the beginning. When people demand the implementation of the UNEP report what are they specifically asking for? The report has very few direct recommendations and a number of very general recommendations. This is normal for a document of this type for many reasons. Firstly, there are a large number of contributors.
Secondly, there is still a large amount of data that needs to be collected before specific actions can correctly be determined. The UNEP has highlighted this within their report. Aside from the report predominantly being a fact-finding exercise, the environmental sensitivity of the Delta region means that each area should be carefully examined prior to actions being implemented so as not to create further harm. Again, a point noted by the UNEP. I have argued for the need to firstly analyse the existing data collected by the UNEP prior to ‘taking action’. However, implementing a remediation and restoration strategy for the Niger Delta does require a number of parallel activities. This would include on-the-ground work such as an early stage collection of contaminated waste; training and education; skill identification; establishing labour teams; and a range of other vital activities all whilst the analysis of data occur to prepare a coordinated and strategic long-term plan. Something I have previously termed as the Niger Delta Action Plan (NDAP).
The necessity of the NDAP is to develop the way forward identifying required and ongoing consultation; ongoing data collection; milestones; time frames; security; technology and equipment requirements; review periods; roll out schedules; ongoing support and much, much more. The NDAP should be designed with a 25-30 year time period in mind, with 3-5 year intervals to evaluate the progress and re-evaluate the steps moving forward. The NDAP should be a dynamic plan, one that can adapt to change as it occurs over time. Although there is an immense urgency to begin resolving the problems that plague the Niger Delta, statements such as ‘we need to implement the UNEP report’ have no scientific or realistic relevance. There is much to do, both now and in the future. A project of this magnitude cannot afford to be carried out incorrectly. Instead of implementing the UNEP report, maybe we can begin saying, “We need to develop the NDAP… and then implement that”.
Written by Antonio Pantalone
Email: [email protected]