Activists, MOSOP hail FG’s plan to kick off Ogoni clean-up
A NEW era is dawning in Ogoniland, Rivers state, with the renewed plan by federal government to fast-track process of implementing United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) ground breaking report, four years after the document was submitted to the authorities.
Under the proposed exercise, the government has amended the Official Gazette establishing the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project to reflect a new governance framework comprising Governing Council, Board of Trustees and the Project Management.
President Mohammadu Buhari further approved that the Hydrocarbons Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) Governing Council should be composed of Ministry of Petroleum Resources (one representative), Ministry of Environment (one representative), impacted states -Rivers (one representative), oil companies and NNPC (four representatives), Ogoniland (two representatives), United Nations System (one representative) and the secretariat headed by the project manager.
Government further approved the composition of a Board of Trustees for the HYPREP Trust Fund, to include one representative each from the Federal Government, NNPC, international oil companies, Ogoniland and the United Nations System.
Buhari also directed that a contribution deposit of $10m will be made by stakeholders within 30 days of the appointment of members of the Board of Trustees for the Trust Fund who will be responsible for collecting and managing funds from contributors and donors.
Last week, ERA/FOEN had staged protests and held a stakeholders’ workshop on the Non-Implementation of UNEP Report in Abuja, where the group called on the federal government and relevant agencies to initiate a holistic approach involving broad based stakeholders including communities and civil society organisations participation in the design, implementation and monitoring of the Ogoni clean up and restoration.
The group further urged that strategies, roadmaps and processes be put in place by government and the oil companies to address the clean up, restoration of the ecosystem and livelihoods of the Ogonis and the entire Niger Delta region. ERA/FOEN said: “The discovery and exploitation of oil and gas in any local community is akin to the passing of a death sentence on such community.”
In reaction to the new development, the Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FOEN) Godwin Ojo told The Guardian, “This initiative within the change agenda is commendable. We are happy that the pains, misery from ecological crimes against Ogoniland will be addressed and oil companies should emulate the gesture of President Buhari.
“We remain vigilant because the road to victory is still a long one. But we are getting there in a structural and holistic manner. This victory is for Ogonis and everyone who lent a voice and mounted pressure for government to act.”
For the President, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), the government action is commendable. Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) also applauded President Buhari for signaling the real commencement of the clean up of the devastated environment of Ogoniland. “The delay in implementing the four years old plan was unconscionable by all standards. It is noted that the process leading to this had some consultations and that some structures have been established for its execution.
HOMEF, however, believes that the body saddled with the task of cleaning up Ogoniland should be renamed. Certainly government does not wish to “restore pollution” as the name Hydrocarbons Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) suggests. The object is to remediate the environment, not to restore pollution.
The group recommends that the name be changed to Hydrocarbons Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) or Hydrocarbons Clean-up Project (HYCUP). Better still, the body should be renamed as Ogoni Environment Restoration Agency as recommended by UNEP.
“If the idea is to pave way for an agency that serves the entire Niger Delta, the needful thing to do, while having a specific project for Ogoniland, would be to rename the Niger Delta Development Commission (NNDC) as Niger Delta Environment Restoration Commission.
“There are rough edges that still require smoothening for a smooth take off of the clean up project,” according to HOMEF Director, Nnimmo Bassey. “A significant aspect is the non-inclusion of at least one representative of civil society in the structures set up by the President. The role and deep stakes of civil society in the struggle for the clean up of Ogoniland and the Niger Delta cannot be overlooked. Their inclusion is essential for oversight reason.
“This laudable step of President Buhari should be followed with a commissioning of environmental audits on other devastated territories in the Niger Delta, in line with the call for one by the people of Egi Land. These should be the starting point for an urgent and thorough auditing of the total state of the Nigerian environment, from the South to the North and from the East to the West,” says George Awudi, a member of the governing board of HOMEF.
HOMEF applauds the Ogoni people for their consistent and dogged struggles to ensure that their environment is cleaned up.