The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has berated the federal government's plan to resume oil exploration in Ogoniland even when the cleanup of the Ogoni environment is yet to take off as recommended by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and accepted by the Federal Governemnt.
The spokesman of the organisation, Mr. Philip Jakpor, said in a statement on Tuesday that their position was due to reports that Ogoni elders petitioned the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo earlier this month, alleging that the delay in commencement of the Ogoni clean-up was because the Petroleum Minister was tying the clean-up process to resumption of oil exploration in Ogoniland.
According to him, the petition was said to have been signed by Rivers State Senator, Bennett Birabi, Dr. Desmond Nbete, Mr. Ledum Mitee, Mr. Baritor L. Kpagih, Prof. Johnson Nna, Chief Monday Abueh and five others.
He said that in the letter, the petitioners expressed concern that "two years after the much publicised flag-off ceremony for the clean-up of Ogoniland as recommended by the UNEP by the Vice President, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources is now tying the expected commencement of the clean-up and remediation process to resumption of oil and gas activities in our land by his preferred company.'
Jakpor said the news is not surprising, as it had over the course of the last three years alerted that the cleanup process was mired in needless controversy and lack of clarity.
He also quoted the Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Godwin Uyi Ojo as saying that: "It is very disturbing that the quest to shore up oil revenue has taken front seat in the Ogoni cleanup exercise while the cleanup proper which will restore the dignity of the people is now subject to needless back and forth."
Ojo said ERA/FoEN is in solidarity with the Ogoni people and Gbo Kabaari Ogoni that the clean-up of their violated environment should not be tied to resumption of oil exploration, even as he added that, "the Ogoni people are getting frustrated at the government's perceived lack of sincerity with the UNEP-recommended exercise"
"Resumption of oil exploration is a distraction and secondary for now because the critical cleanup has taken the backseat. What the Ogoni people require and demand as a right is the immediate commencement of the cleanup," Ojo said.