By Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Emmanuel Elebeke
ABUJA — AN environmental group, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FOEN, has given the Federal Government a knock over the recent flag-off the clean-up of Ogoni, Rivers State, saying that apart from the usual fan fair, there was no serious commitment by the government to the exercise.
Executive Director of ERA/FOEN, Dr. Godwin Ojo, who expressed dismay over what he described as lack of commitment by the Federal Government to the clean-up of Ogoni during the World Environment Day in Abuja, urged the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to come out and state in a clear and unambiguous terms the commitment of government and Shell Petroleum Development Company in the exercise.
Ojo also frowned at the non passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, which his organisation has been at the fore front of the campaign for passage of the bill, noting that what was presently before the National Assembly as PIB was highly deceptive.
Meanwhile, Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Brig. General Paul Boroh (retd) has described the clean-up of Ogoni as both an environmental and economic lifeline for the Niger Delta.
He said apart from restoring the environment, the clean- up will in the in short term lead to mass youth employment and revival of sustainable economic activities while on the long run, the people will return to their profession of farming and fishing.
According to him, the clean-up was the best thing to happen to the region in many years, adding that long years of oil exploitation, spills and abandonment had made many parts of the Niger Delta unsafe for human habitation and economically, unviable.
In a statement by Media and Communication Consultant to Presidential Amnesty Programme, Owei Lakemfa, Boroh said that the clean-up will also greatly assist the Presidential Amnesty Programme engage ex-agitators in sustainable employment, adding that the exercise fits in perfectly with the programmes’s current phase of sustainably integrating all the 30,000 beneficiaries of the Amnesty Programme.
Dr Ojo continuing, said “Environmental challenges have been politicised along ethnic lines. The failure of natural resource management in Nigeria is the failure of governance in the lack of compliance and enforcement of the extant laws.”
He said the country needed a new economic pathway that was not dependent on fossil fuels, stressing that the significant drop in oil pricing required an alternative economic blueprint that was envisaged within a post petroleum economy for Nigeria.
“Let us put a halt to the plundering of natural resources in the name of foreign exchange earnings. This has so far been counter to local production and consumption. Two profile cases are worthy of mention: The Petroleum Industry Governance Bill 2015, and the implementation of the United Nations Environmental programme, UNEP, Assessment on Ogoniland Report.
“First, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill 2015 (PIGB) for oil sector reform currently before the National Assembly falls short of peoples’ expectation because it does not recognised local participation in the management of natural resources.
“The 10 percent equity devolved to the community in the previous Bill had been deliberately left out and environmental protection is not provided for. The Bill is not comprehensive and highly deceptive because although it anticipates other bills, yet the timing, shape and content of such future bills are virtually unknown.
“The Bill should not be passed by the lawmakers unless the promoters put all the cards on the table in respect to other expected bills and incorporate critical views from the impacted communities and civil society groups.
“Almost five years on from the submission of the report (August 4, 2011), nothing has changed. Spill sites identified by UNEP remain heavily contaminated even after claims by Shell that it has carried out clean-up operations.
“The Ogoni environment is worse off, and the people are dying in droves on a daily basis in a place where life expectancy is shortest in Nigeria.
“To reiterate, the high point of the president’s speech delivered on his behalf by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo was the approval he gave for the setting up of the structures such as the Governing Council and the Board of Trustees recommended for driving the clean up process,” he added.