By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – A coalition of Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, on Thursday, expressed concern over delay in the execution of the proposed clean-up of oil spillage in Ogoniland, despite the availability of $177million that International Oil Corporations, IOCs, released for the exercise.
The group, led by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, urged the Federal Government to speed up the procurement process of selecting contractors and deploying them to engage in the clean-up process.
In an address he presented at the 2nd Annual National Summit on the Niger Delta Clean-up, held in Abuja, the Executive Director of CISLAC, Mallam Auwal Musa, noted that field observation and scientific investigations the United Nations Environment Project, UNEP, conducted since 2011, revealed that oil contamination in Ogoniland was widespread and severely impacted many components of the environment.
He said: “The Niger Delta region occupies a central place in the political economy of Nigeria. The region remains the mainstay of the Nigerian economy. But unfortunately, as a result of oil exploration and exploitation, the Niger Delta’s physical, political, social and moral environment has been completely destroyed.
“The livelihood of the people have been destroyed and the region is in economic crisis with high levels of insecurity, cult activities, brigandage, kidnapping and unwarranted killings.
“Over the years, the response of government to the crisis in the Niger Delta characterized by legal response, military response, project response and agency response have failed to arrest the underdevelopment and environmental degradation of the region.
“We have consistently argued that any approach for the development of the Niger Delta must focus on three issues: Human Development, Justice and Equity.
“For us, the entry point is environmental governance in the Niger Delta. It is only through environmental governance that laws, policies and procedures will be implemented to achieve a healthy and sustainable environment in the Niger Delta.
“It is through good environmental governance that the key stakeholders (government, oil companies, local communities and citizen groups) will be able to perform their roles to ensure a healthy and sustainable environment. It is through good environmental governance that we will be able to eliminate conflict and environment entrepreneurs who feed on the crisis in the Niger Delta.
“The Ogoni clean-up exercise provides an opportunity to establish the basis for good environmental governance in the Niger Delta”.
He said the UNEP report had emphasized that the environmental restoration of Ogoniland could take 25 to 30 years.
“The clean up of Ogoniland is envisaged to be a combination of approaches ranging from active intervention for cleaning the top soil and replanting mangrove to passive monitoring of natural regeneration.
“The report proposes emergency measures including provision of drinking water, public awareness campaign and signs warning citizens of contaminated sites. The report recommends that steps must be taken to stop ongoing contamination and end illegal oil related activities.
“The Report proposed clean-up of surface water, restoration of swamplands, setting up of Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Centre and Centre of Excellence for Environmental Restoration, treatment of contaminated sediments, decontamination of ground water and mangrove restoration, in addition, the Report recommended comprehensive medical examination of citizens by physicians and a focused medical study”.
Similarly, the Executive Director of the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD), Mr Monday Osasah, said the theme of the summit “Environment, Wellness and the Community”, was timeous in view of environmental realities of the people of the Niger Delta that elicited the UNEP report.
“While we appreciate the Federal Government for its political will and commitment to clean up the Niger Delta, and the setting up of HYPREP as a body and a project to oversee the clean up process, we believe the gamut of processes from the emergency measures to the clean-up are all targeted at ensuring environmental and community wellness, the reason government has to make good its promise by adopting an aggressive approach towards the emergency measures and the cleanup of Ogoni land and the Niger Delta.
“Truth must be told that the postponement of the clean up commencement date and non-completion of the emergency measure does not portend good for the people of the Niger Delta and the country at large particularly with the availability of the sum of US$180 million in the project account.
“Cleaning the Niger Delta is social justice, and having achieved relative calm so far, we believe that further tampering with citizens expectation by the lull and constant postponement of the clean up might be problematic”, he added.