Nigeria: Ogoni Clean-Up - Group Launches 'Community Monitors' to Provide Progress Reports

6 February 2019

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria has launched a project that would provide 100 independent community monitors to complement the Ogoni clean-up process.

Announcing the project in Port Harcourt, Wednesday, Godwin Ojo, ERA/FoEN's executive director, said the monitors would provide qualitative and scientific progress reports on the state of the clean-up process.

"It will provide feedback to HYPREP, government agencies, media, and the relevant stakeholders to ensure transparency and accountability."

Some of the tools provided for the project include barometers, thermometers, anemometers, hand augers, aeroquals, among others.

Mr Ojo said they would write to relevant government agencies to notify them about the community monitors.

On issues of security for the monitors, Mr Ojo said, "It is surprising that people are talking about security for community people who will be visiting their own backyard.

"However, given that Ogoni is a conflict zone, security has become a major issue and therefore we trust that these community people will be given free access to the remediation sites.

"We will link them to the appropriate authorities and provide ID cards for them and also ensure that they do not come to harm's way in the course of duty. But we must understand that if the communities are part and parcel of the process, then the issue of security does not arise."

The Nigerian government officially flagged off the clean-up of Ogoni land in 2016, five years after a United Nations Environmental Programme report recommended the remediation of the "heavily-polluted" community.

But the project suffered several delays in its implementation up till November last year when the government said it had concluded the final processes for the award of contracts for the clean-up.

Last month, leaders from the Ogoni community threatened a mass protest after criticising the government's implementation of the project saying it was "flawed."

On Tuesday, the federal government announced it had mobilised 16 contractors to carry out the environmental remediation and clean-up in Ogoni. Details of the contractors, however, were not provided.

Kabari Sam, an environmentalist, said a lot of things had been taken for granted in the clean-up process in Ogoni land.

"Waste management is one of them, we are supposed to have a prepared environment that will receive the waste before we even hand over sites to prospective contractors or people that will carry out the remediation," said Mr Sam, Head, Environment and Conservation, Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development.

"But unfortunately, we seem to be putting the cart before the horse and so we might run into trouble at some point. We might be digging up waste from somewhere and be dumping it elsewhere where we had clean land, so to say."

"The implication if the contractors begin to clean up today is that whatever waste that will be arising from those sites people are going to lease lands in our different communities.

"And I can just say that because we have high level of poverty in our communities people will be more than willing to lease their land without asking what the land will be used for. It's a big problem that we are going to face."

Among its recommendations, ERA/FoEN urged the federal government to initiate a quarterly transparency and accountability meeting open to all stakeholders.

"Set up a database for information on the remediation process and develop a robust economic empowerment programme for local community members involved in artisanal crude oil refinery.

"Government should ensure that at least $200 million per year is provided timely and sustainably to avoid the situation of shortfall that occurred in 2018."

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