Help save our wetlands: Nigerian diaspora group to have US Congressional hearing

by Tolu Orekoya

Oil spills have devastated the once-vibrant wetlands in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria, and little has been done to clear up the spills and return the ecosystem to its Natural state. US-based Council of Ogoni Professionals International hopes that a meeting with a committee from the United States’ House of Representatives could help restore and preserve the wetland of their communities, thanks to their “quiet diplomacy and advocacy.”

A congressional hearing “is a meeting or session of a Senate, House, joint, or special committee of Congress, usually open to the public, to obtain information and opinions on proposed legislation, conduct an investigation, or evaluate/oversee the activities of a government department or the implementation of a Federal law. In addition, hearings may also be purely exploratory in nature, providing testimony and data about topics of current interest. Most congressional hearings are published two months to two years after they are held,” according to the US Government Printing Office.

According to the Voice of America (VOA) news website the group also says that the US “Congress has drafted a concurrent resolution describing the Niger Delta as one of the world’s important wetlands that must be protected and economic development made a priority.”

In an interview with VOA council member Anslem John-Miller said, “You are very aware of the fact that on August 4, 2011, the UN Environment Program [UNEP] released a report on Ogoni and, up to this moment, nothing has been done.  So, we are going to be discussing all that and the overall situation in the Niger Delta.”

The UNEP put the tab for the damage to the wetland’s agricultural and potable water sources from 50 years of oil spills at over $1 billion.

“The clean-up of Ogoniland will not only address a tragic legacy, but also represents a major ecological restoration enterprise with potentially multiple positive effects ranging from bringing the various stakeholders together in a single concerted cause to achieving lasting improvements for the Ogoni people,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, VOA reported.

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