27 December 2017

Nigeria: Ogoniland Clean-Up - Getting It Right

Early June this year, we wrote an editorial with the above caption. Six months after, Ogoni youths are still complaining about the non implementation of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). We reflow that editorial to urge the authorities concerned to do what is necessary to remediate the environmental devastation in Ogoniland

Following President Muhammadu Buhari's launching of the project for the environmental restoration of Ogoniland yesterday, the issues that surround the whole process raise many concerns about what to do to get it right. It is important to take the right steps now in order to handle the years-long process of restoring the land to normalcy.

In its report, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), asserted that the environmental restoration of Ogoniland could prove to be the world's most wide-ranging and long term oil mop-up exercise ever undertaken.

It is estimated to take about 30 years to clean up the over 50 years of land degradation, contaminated drinking water, polluted creeks and important ecosystems such as mangroves- a long process which would require full dedication and commitment to see the project through.

Who will clean up?

There is no gainsaying that contracting the job to those with the experience is the first thing to be considered because cleaning up an oil spill is not like mopping up some egg-yolk. Although hiring an indigenous company could be cheaper, if a foreign company would do a better job, then there should be no compromise in ending the years of suffering of the people of Ogoniland.

The Federal Government will need to step up its efforts in not just contracting but keeping track of the job to ensure that it is done thoroughly and timely. Therefore, a company that has a successful track record, whether Nigerian or foreign is what should be paramount.

When the Deepwater Horizon oil-spill - the largest marine oil-spill in history - happened, the various cleanup efforts were coordinated by the National Response Team, a group of government agencies headed by the US Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

BP, Transocean, and several other companies were held liable for the billions of dollars in costs accrued.

We salute the bold and historic step taken by President Muhammadu Buhari who has also approved that the Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) Governing Council should be composed of representatives of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Federal Ministry of Environment, impacted states, oil companies and the Nigerian National Petroleum (NNPC), representatives from Ogoniland, representatives from the United Nations System. If run with accountability and transparency, the project will create thousands of jobs for unemployed youth in the area and reclaim an economically beneficial ecosystem.

In the end, it is now up to the affected communities and other regions in the Niger Delta to be vigilant against economic and environmental saboteurs who would almost certainly attempt to frustrate the project for personal pecuniary or political profit.

Nigeria

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