Ogoni Clean-Up: Time For Action
21 Aug 2017
Given recent signals emerging from the Federal Government and other key stakeholders in the implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Report, it appears the political grandstanding on the environmental degradation in the Niger Delta region would soon be a thing of the past.
Recent revelations indicate that six years after the submission of the UNEP Report, the Federal Government, the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and other major stakeholders have now shown some level of seriousness and commitment in the remediation of impacted communities in Ogoniland.
Two weeks ago, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, in a meeting with leaders of Niger Delta region, under the aegis of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), disclosed that the Federal Government had set aside $1billion for the cleaning up and remediation of Ogoniland.
Osinbajo explained that $200 million would be released yearly out of the $1billion for the first five years for the project, adding that work on the clean-up would be conducted in line with international best practices.
He also disclosed that water tests had been done in preparation for the clean-up exercise, while 15 technical assistants had been engaged to work with the professionals to ensure sustainable environmental standards in Ogoniland.
On its part, SPDC had released $10 million take-off fund to the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), the agency saddled with the responsibility of driving the remediation process in Ogoniland.
The company’s General Manager, External Relations, Mr. Igo Weli, told journalists in Port Harcourt, recently, that the international oil giant would continue to play its critical role alongside other stakeholders under a transparent governance framework.
Weli explained that 15 heavily polluted sites mentioned in the UNEP Report that needed attention had been remediated in Ogoniland and certified by the Federal Government, pointing out that the company had raised its standard on remediation approaches in line with the industry’s best practices.
The Tide notes that though these interventions are coming belatedly, it is re-assuring that something at last, is being done towards the full implementation of the UNEP Report. The bold steps taken so far by the critical stakeholders to give the Ogonis a new lease of life are necessary tonic to push the remediation project to the home stretch.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Ogoniland is among the worst hit in the area of environmental degradation. Several years of oil exploration and exploitation had left its massive landscape desolate and highly devastated, while the people’s means of livelihood have been at serious risk.
We also recall that attempts by some prominent Ogoni sons and daughters, to draw the world’s attention to the deplorable situation, with a view to getting remedial response, had left in its wake tears and blood. The hanging to death of popular environmentalist, Kenule Saro-Wiwa and three others by the Sani Abacha military junta in 1995 is still fresh in mind, even as several of his kinsmen also paid the supreme price.
Thus, in an attempt to apparently appease the people, UNEP was drafted to Ogoniland to ascertain the level of environmental degradation in the area and proffer solution. The agency, at the end of its assignment, submitted a report to the Federal Government in 2011, with far-reaching recommendations on the remediation of the vast Ogoniland.
Commendable as the recent moves by the Federal Government and SPDC are, we believe that the clean-up in Ogoniland deserves a more proactive measure than it is currently receiving. There is no doubt that one year after the flag-off of the clean-up exercise by the government, the process appears to be rather slow, a situation which has triggered off agitations from Ogoni communities.
While we urge the Federal Government to speed up actions on the clean-up, we also appeal to Ogoni communities, especially the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), KAGOTE and other groups and stakeholders, to cooperate with those handling the clean-up project to achieve the desired result.
Indeed, with the national and international attention the Ogoni clean-up project has received, the exercise cannot afford to fail. And to make up for the several years of environmental devastation, we expect that the exercise will be the beginning of the ultimate transformation of not just the Ogoniland, but the entire Niger Delta area.
Now, indeed, is the time for action.