He also described the deliberately allowing poisoning and pollution of drinking water in Ogoniland’s four Local Government Areas of Khana, Gokana, Tai and Eleme, as genocide, while insisting that the polluted water had made the lives of the surviving Ogoni people to be in distress.
Pyagbara stated these yesterday in Port Harcourt at MOSOP’s public policy dialogue, with the theme: “Situating Ogoni Water Provision and Access: Implications for Improvements in the Post-UNEP Ogoni Environmental Assessment Report Era.”
The event was attended by Prof. Johnson Nna of the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT); the Executive Director of the Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (IHRHL), Anyakwee Nsirimovu; monarchs and many Ogoni leaders.
The lead presenter, Dr. Batam Ndegwe, declared that Ogoni people needed water now, while urging government and other stakeholders to take the issue very seriously.
MOSOP president further stated that Ogoni people had not seen the sense of national emergency to address the water problem in Ogoni, since the August 4, 2011 submission to the then President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja of the report of the environmental assessment of Ogoniland by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Pyagbara said: “The findings of UNEP on the environmental situation in Ogoniland were indeed humbling and troubling, but its revelation on the extent of water pollution was indeed mind-boggling. It showed hydrocarbon pollution in surface waters throughout the creeks of Ogoniland and up to 8 cm in groundwater that feed drinking wells.
“Soils were found to have been polluted with hydrocarbons, up to a depth of five metres in 49 observed sites, while Benzene, a known carcinogen (cancer causing), was found in drinking water at a level 900 times above World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) acceptable standards.
“In at least ten Ogoni communities where drinking water is contaminated with high level of hydrocarbons, public health is seriously threatened. This is the real crisis. This is the water crisis. In other climes, this would have evoked a sense of national emergency and the government encouraged to take urgent and decisive actions to remedy the situation. But this is Nigeria.”
MOSOP president also stated that if the integrity of water was desecrated and destroyed, then the people’s lives would equally be destroyed, describing water as the most valuable natural resource of the Ogoni people.
Pyagbara noted that safety and proper management of water was the most pressing natural resource challenge confronting Ogoni people at the moment.
He said: “The water situation for Ogoni people is that of a daily struggle, involving pollution, poison, disease, death, hardship and social injustice, with women and children being the most affected.”