The people of Ogoni in Rivers State, have said that the committee set up by President Goodluck Jonathan to look into the report of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) did not consult them before submitting its report to the Presidency.
The committee had the Minister for Petroleum, Mrs. Dieziani Allison-Madueke, as chairperson while the ministers of Environment, Agriculture, and Niger Delta Affairs served as members.
Addressing newsmen at the weekend in Port Harcourt, shortly after a meeting of elected representatives of Ogoniland, the senator representing Rivers South-East district in the National Assembly, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe said members of the committee neither visited any part of Ogoniland nor got the input of the people of the area before submitting its report.
"So, the least we had expected was that the federal government committee would have consulted us. They should have at least visited the areas mentioned in that report and met with those who were involved in this thing.
"We were surprised when we heard a couple of days ago from the chairman of the committee and Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Deiziani Allison-Madueke, that they have finished their work and submitted their report.
"We want to say that we have consulted a broad spectrum of Ogoni leaders across the four local government areas that are covered by the report. We have spoken with a lot of our leaders, we have talked with Ledum Mitee, we have talked with King Gininwa, we have spoken to everybody we need to speak to. We are very shocked and disappointed that no Ogoni son or daughter was consulted by the committee," Abe said.
He said that the federal government refused to appoint an indigene of Ogoni into the committee to act as a liaison between the committee and the people of Ogoni in order to afford them the opportunity of knowing at what level their issue was being handled.
The senator said that, "we also appealed to the federal government to appoint any Ogoni son or daughter of their choice to act as a liaison between the committee and the people of Ogoni so that our people would not only know that something was being considered, but also at what level the thing was being considered and they would also have an opportunity to make input into what the committee was doing."
Abe, who is also the chairman of Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), disclosed that even UNEP in the process of carrying its assignment visited all the affected areas in Ogoniland where they held town hall meetings with the people and wondered what prevented the Madueke-led committee from visiting Ogoniland or consulting with people from the area.
"It is worthy to note that even though the UNEP report was a technical work, UNEP still went to every community in Ogoni covered by their work. They went to Eleme, they held a town hall meeting, they went to Tai, they held a town hall meeting, they went to Gokana, they held a meeting, they went to Khana, they held a meeting. The Rivers State government also held series of meetings with the Ogoni people in the course of the UNEP job.
"As we speak, we don't know what recommendations the committee had made, we don't know what part of the report they looked at. We don't know what they considered. We don't know what they are planning to do and we don't even know where they are going to start from.
"But what we want to say is that while we are not against whatever report they committee presented, we want to make it clear to the people of Nigeria that the people of Ogoni were not consulted, we have not been consulted by the government and we are not aware of what they are planning to do and how it will be done," he said.