BY ANAYO ONUKWUGHA, PORT HARCOURT
The final report of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on the polluted Ogoni environment was submitted to the Federal Government in August 2011.
The federal government had in 2006 commissioned UNEP to carry out an environmental assessment of Ogoniland as part of a wider Ogoni reconciliation process.
The UNEP report highlighted significant environmental impacts from oil pollution in parts of Ogoniland relating to a variety of causes.
It made recommendations to the Federal Government of Nigeria, the oil and gas industry and communities to conduct a comprehensive cleanup of Ogoniland, restore polluted environments and take coordinated action to end to all forms of oil contamination in Ogoniland, such as illegal oil bunkering, crude theft and artisanal refining of stolen crude.
The UNEP report presented a range of operational, technical, regulatory and behavioural recommendations addressed to the Federal Government of Nigeria, oil and gas operators – including SPDC and communities.
These recommendations were aimed at restoring the environment of polluted areas of Ogoniland and addressing the causes of ongoing contamination. The report also recommended eight emergency measures relating to water contamination in areas assessed to be immediate danger to public health.
The Hydorcarbon Pollution Remediation Programme (HYPREP) was subsequently set up to midwife the cleanup of the Ogoni environment, which was flagged-off of in July 2016 by the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osibanjo.
However, some civil society organizations led by Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), believe that HYPREP, headed by an Ogoni son, Dr. Marvin Dekil, has not done something tangible in respect of the cleanup exercise six years after the presentation of the UNEP report and more than one year after the flag-off ceremony.
Addressing newsmen in Port Harcourt, Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, condemned the piecemeal approach to the cleanup planning and implementation process by the HYPREP and the snail-pace approach of the federal government that is motion without movement.
Ojo said, “Notwithstanding President Muhammadu Buhari’s seemingly good intentions, there is gross inadequate funding and only US$10 million has been released from the US$200 million pledged by Shell and the Federal Government of Nigeria for the 2017 fiscal year.
“Furthermore, there is no statutory budgetary provision for the cleanup in the 2017 national budget. We condemn in strong terms the piecemeal approach to the cleanup planning and implementation process by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) and the ‘snail-pace’ approach of the federal government that is motion without movement.
“The federal government should declare the Ogoni cleanup as environmental state of emergency and channel resources to it so that the cleanup will commence immediately. No more delays, clean up now.
“HYPREP should put in place a definite work plan and timeline for the cleanup process through an inclusive planning process that accommodates input from stakeholders.
“Shell and the federal government should be compelled to commit fully to funding the clean-up costs, including but not limited to, the initial fund of $1 billion. They should declare their contributions for the year 2017 and pledges for 2018.
“The National Oil Spills Detection and Remediation Agency (NOSDRA) and other government agencies being starved of funds and roles in the cleanup process should be empowered to monitor the process.”
He insisted that the UNEP report indicted the alleged polluter of the Ogoni environment, Shell for the deployment of a one size fits all cleanup measures through the Remediation by Enhanced Natural Attenuation (RENA) technologies for the cleanup of the Ogoni environment.
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