17 August 2017

Nigeria: Mosop, Others Decry Slow Pace of Ogoni Clean-Up

Fourteen months after the clean-up project of Ogoni land embarked upon by the Nigerian government, and recommended by the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, stakeholders appear disillusioned at the slow pace of work.

Although the government has put up some structures like a Governing Council, Board of Trustees, Technical Committee and other panels in place, to oversee the process that will lead to the clean-up, experts opine that it may take up to 30 years for the exercise to be completed.

The Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP, perhaps out of frustration with the process, attacked Shell recently, accusing the company of not showing enough willingness to be part of the clean-up exercise, according to a report by NAN.

MOSOP President, Legbosi Piagbara, told journalists in Port Harcourt on Wednesday that Shell was refusing to pay its shares of the counterpart funding for the clean-up.

Mr. Piagbara said Shell had not paid the $200 million which the company was expected to pay annually into the clean-up trust fund.

He said that the clean-up would not be realisable without Shell fulfilling its part of the funding plan.

Mr. Piagbara said a $10 million take-off fund paid by Shell for the clean-up exercise was not enough.

"The agreement is an annual payment of $200 million for the clean-up, (and) as we speak, Shell cannot say it has paid such money. Shell has not lived up to the agreement; we are expecting it to pay its share of the funding so that efforts on the project will become visible," he said.

Shell, however in a statement posted on its website, said that it remained committed to the clean-up of Ogoni.

"SPDC JV is committed to the implementation of the UNEP Report and welcomes FGN efforts to progress its implementation, including the creation of Governing Council (GC) and Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Ogoni Restoration Fund (ORF) in Aug 2016 to oversee and fund the clean-up process," the statement said.

"SPDC JV is represented on both the GC and BoT and will continue to actively support the clean-up process along with other stakeholders within a transparent governance framework.

"SPDC JV applauds the ground-breaking ceremony in February 2017 of the Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Centre, which will help create employment opportunities in Ogoniland and facilitate the acquisition of skills in the treatment of contaminated soils. SPDC JV commits to support HYPREP and the HYPREP Project Coordinator (Dr. Marvin Barinen Dekil) in the clean-up process."

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FoEN, also recently attacked the federal government for the alleged slow pace of the exercise.

Godwin Ojo, Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, said almost six years after the UNEP report, "not a drop of oil" had been cleaned in Ogoniland.

Mr. Ojo said in April that a $10 million take-off grant promised by President Buhari was yet to be released for the clean-up exercise.

"As we speak, there has been no serious effort to manage the expectations of the Ogonis. While some believe that the clean-up process is a money-making venture, others are facing difficulties to pursue the clean-up process.

"Authorities responsible for the clean-up should come up publicly, provide a template for the clean-up and a step by step blueprint on how it would progress.

"The media is even kept in the dark, for example, no one knows the effective date of the clean-up process, and this is not good enough to manage the people's expectations. Not everyone is being carried along at the moment," he said.

It would be recalled that in June 2016, Nigeria's Acting President Yemi Osinbajo kicked off the exercise.

The kick-off exercise, which took place at Bodo in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State was attended by several dignitaries, including the state governor, Nyesom Wike, ministers, and a UN representative.

Mr. Osinbajo who read President Muhammadu Buhari's address at the ceremony had said the project would be vigorously pursued and would have sustainable development components which would benefit the people.


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