By Ben Ikari, for OCAFAC-USA
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The Ogoni Children Cultural and Fundamental Rights Council (OCAFAC USA), concerned with the unethical behavior of Michael Cowing, who is the coordinator of the Environmental Assessment in Ogoni, has decided to step up actions with MOSOP and other Ogoni groups to demand with immediate effect his removal.

Aware of the fact that MOSOP had called on UNEP (and specifically

Cowing) to be open and adhere to due process in line with international standard. Also conscious of UNEP and Cowing's fragrant disregard to this call, and that if the assessment is compromised due to $hell and the Federal government's influence as recent developments have shown.

Ogoni children will be faced with a degraded environment prone to disasters which impacts will plague them for the rest of their lives,

And concerned that this assessment was long requested by MOSOP, and it is also part of the reasons the Ogoni Nine and more than six thousand others were murdered. Confronted by the fact that our future is uncertain and can be debilitating if a professionally based and credible assessment is not done, Ogoni children and people's threat to extinction will be deeper.

We have no option but to demand the immediate and unconditional removal of Cowing from Ogoni and this project in particular. We demand that once removed he must have nothing to do with any aspect of the project.

When Cowing was asked through email on January 6, if he would be independent enough to resist the control or influence of $hell Oil and the Federal government of Nigeria (the project sponsors) he refused to respond to that mail.

He was touched by a bitter truth; this was a question that touched on integrity and credibility. It was to test how ethically sound he is. He woefully failed.

He indeed compromised the ethics of his profession by allowing the sponsors above to control what he does and says. Therefore his confession after much insistence to know if he was distancing himself from the many comments he has been credited in the media (and his presentation at Geneva) that Ogonis are responsible for 90 percent of oil spill in their land while $hell is responsible for only 10 percent.

Although he said it is not the duty of UNEP to allocate blame or responsibility to who spill how much oil, but to assess the impact and make recommendations for remediation, he also said the source of the data he had used to make the blame-judgment was from the government. Of course, this data was supplied by $hell.

Cowing's shady dealings caused great uproar and disaffection from Ogonis, ERA, Amnesty International, the many observers and supporters of Ogoni cause. This led to UNEP's spokesperson (Nick Nuttall) issuing a press statement on August 23, titled: "The Cause of Oil Spills in the Niger Delta."

Nuttall said the UN agency is yet to complete its work in Ogoni and so have not issued any interim report. This position invariably debunked Cowing's conspiracy with $hell and the Nigerian government. Ogoni in-turn demanded an apology and the sack of Cowing.

Consequently, on September 5 media reports have it that, "UN Body Apologises over Claims on Ogoni Oil Spills." See excerpt of the comment credited to UNEP:

UNEP Chief, Post Conflict and Disaster Management Branch, Mr. Henrik Slotte, who spoke with THISDAY in Port Harcourt weekend, regretted the controversy that attended the alleged attribution of spill causes to sabotage in Ogoni. He said the body was still investigating and yet to compile its report.

Going by the wisdom that our environment is our life and because we have a right to live, and having corroborated UNEP's positions aforementioned that showed Cowing acted on his own, OCAFAC is joining the Ogoni people, MOSOP, and Ogoni Solidarity Forum to demand the immediate removal of Cowing whose discredited reputation in Ogoni makes him unsuitable for the Ogoni project.

It is only when UNEP remove him that a credible work can be accomplished in the best interest of the Ogoni children and people; the company and government. We also demand that the soil and water, etc.

samples collected and proposed to be sent to London for examination should be redone so that MOSOP representatives and members of Amnesty International can participate during collection.

This will allow for transparency. Having redone the collection exercise, the samples should be sent to American or Canadian laboratory as Ogonis do not trust that $hell and the Nigerian government will not influence such laboratory test in the company's home country. Failure to remove Cowing and adhere to due process would attract a legal action that may stop the project pending when UNEP is prepared to do the right thing.

Ben Ikari, for OCAFAC-USA.