15 January 2019

Nigeria: Ogoniland Cleanup Opaque, Not in Agreement With UNEP Recommendations, Elders Insist

Port Harcourt — Ogoni Elders' Forum, under the aegis of Gbo Kabaari Ogoni, has accused the Federal Government of being completely out of sync with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recommendation in the cleanup of polluted sites in Ogoniland.

The elders observed that rather than commencing the implementation of the UNEP recommendations with the proposed emergency measures with each tranche of funds released by the oil companies on the clean-up project, the expenditure pattern has not only been opaque, but tends to undermine the smooth implementation of the project.

Gbo Kabaari Ogoni Chairman, Senator Bennett Birabi; Secretary, Dr. AlubaBari Nbete and former President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, Ledum Mitee, told journalists in Port Harcourt yesterday that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the flag-off of the cleanup in 2016 had given the assurance that the exercise would be done holistically and in a manner that ensures "transparency, accountability, genuine partnership and proper representation of the people at the grassroots.

"More than two years after the flag-off and the laudable assurances given, we are concerned that the manner and processes for the implementation of the recommendations of the UNEP report run completely counter to the assurances given by the Federal Government and more importantly, the very recommendations of the report," they said.

The leaders lamented that after the first announced release of $10 million by the International Oil Companies (IOCs), about N1 billion contract was awarded to each of three consultancy firms of doubtful profiles and pedigrees and in a manner that looks more like patronages.

Also, they said the recent announcement of a further release of funds from the IOCs had been followed by a spree of cleanup contract awards that, among other things, debased and negated the concept of local content. According to them, the extreme politicisation of the contract awards, resulting in the exclusion of competent indigenous contractors from Ogoniland and other parts of the Niger Delta, is as insensitive as it is unacceptable to the people.

"We consider it very sad that, as we speak, not only has nothing absolutely been done about any of these emergency measures but also the national and international visibility of the Ogoni issue has been fraudulently exploited to score cheap public relations benefits at every opportunity. In this respect, we recall that the cleanup was flagged off in the glare of local and international press since 2016 and till now, nothing practically has been done. Also, in 2017, the then Environment Minister, Amina Mohammed, similarly at an impressive public event that was widely reported in the press did a so-called "ground breaking" ceremony of the Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Centre at the School-To Land Farm in Bori, a site that is now overgrown with bush," they said.

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