Leaders of the Ogoni ethnic nationality have said that the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) assessment report on Ogoniland has finally vindicated their protracted claims against the activities Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC).
In a consultative meeting with a technical team, which included experts from the John Hopkins University, led by the National Coordinator of the Hydrocarbon Pollution, Restoration Project (HYPRP), Mrs. Joy Nunieh-Okunu, in Khana Local Government Area of Rivers States, the Gbenemene Ken-Khana Kingdom, King M.S.H Eguru, noted that the UNEP report came handy to its struggle against environmental degradation allegedly perpetrated by SPDC.
Eguru who also doubles as the chairman of Khana council of traditional rulers and chiefs explained that the alleged activities of SPDC had left the people of Ogoniland with an unfortunate fate on the safety of their environment.
He added that the hybrid measure, HYPRP set up by the Federal Government to assume the responsibility of implementing recommendations in the report which was commissioned by UNEP in 2011 could remedy the mess if honestly managed.
He said: "Ogoni need development and safe environment for the generation yet unborn. We are living today because we were beneficiaries of safe environment but today is a different story because our environment is the most polluted according to the report of UNEP and this has exonerated us that our campaign was not a fluke."
"Ogoniland is changed today due to the way and manner SPDC has conducted itself since the first oil was struck in 1958. What we have lost in terms of human resources and environmental degradation is better seen than imagined.
"We were crying for the implementation of the UNEP report considering the lacuna between when it was submitted and when HYPRP was constituted; all hope was lost because the Federal Government was silent on the issue, we are assured that our story will turn for the better with your emergence, however, we appeal that we don't want the ugly past to repeat itself," he stated.
The traditional ruler called for a honest implementation of recommendations in the UNEP report by HYPRP, warning that anything short of a credible management of the process could complicate situations in Ogoniland.
In her response, Nunieh-Okunu explained that the process of setting up a mechanism to implement recommendations in the report was seemingly long considering the schedule of responsibilities earmarked to be achieved.
She said: "The world knows that we are the only people with a documentary evidence of what has happened to us in terms of environmental degradation. It took the Federal Government a while to begin implementing contents of the UNEP report due to its schedule of responsibilities and HYPRP was established less than one year after the report was submitted.
"I want to assure you that not even one dollar of the $2 billion will be spent outside Ogoniland and we are not starting cleanup now considering the various aspects of work to be done before eventual cleanup will begin. We will abide by standard practice and you can see that this is our first technical visit because HYPRP is about total restoration that is why we will have a master plan."