The Federal Government has been urged to matched words with actions on the clean-up of Ogoni land.
The Executive Director of the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (Centre LSD), Mr. Monday Osasah, made the call on Friday in Abuja at a media parley on “Achieving a Healthy and Sustainable Environment in the Niger Delta” as part of activities marking this year’s World Environment Day and the Ogoni Clean-Up Conundrum.
Represented by the Senior Programme Officer at the Centre, Mr. Lawal Amodu, Osasah said that the issue of the clean-up should not have been this controversial if the Federal Government has been decisive to get the exercise done.
According to him, the theme of this year’s world environment day “biodiversity” captures the symbiotic relationship or interaction between plants and animal and the environment and that as the United Nations (UN) noted that the issues around biodiversity has become “urgent and existential” given the recent development around the world including “bushfires in Brazil, the United States, Australia and the locust infestations across East Africa.
He said, “The theme for the year is quite pungent and brings to focus the need to be urgent about the clean-up of the environment of the Niger Delta region, degraded for decades by the impacts oil pollution. Since the flag off of the Clean-up of Ogoni land by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration in 2016, several government proclamations have restated its commitment to the clean-up of the region. But the non-alignment of the proclamations with actual work on the ground, remains worrisome.
“Although after the initial five years of the implementation of the recommendation of the UNEP report which states that a total of $1bn was expected to be expended, the total funds released to date is $360m with a little above $40m spent by HYPREP thus far. This puts a big question mark on the spending capacity or the burn rate of HYPREP, the body vested with the responsibility of the clean-up. How can one explain the availability of money and the lull implementation?”
He said that the respective communities in Ogoni land must realize that the current opportunity to reverse the negative impact of oil exploration and exploitation on their space should not be missed as a clean environment has implication for their lives and livelihoods.
“Hence, the communities and their respective gatekeepers must take ownership of the clean-up process by asking critical questions around the exercise, engage the process as well as the relevant stakeholders -local and national in a strategic manner so as to yield positive result that would have direct bearing on the lives of the people.
“This is a fight that should not be left to CSOs alone. They must work to meaningfully contribute their quota to the progress of their community by taking upon themselves the responsibility to engage in actions that will reverse their ordeal. That way both HYPREP, FME, Contractors, CSOs and other relevant stakeholders will appreciate their efforts and consider them as partners in progress. Communities must be able to hold key stakeholders on the clean-up accountable for their actions,” he added.
He therefore urged President Muhammadu Buhari and his government to urgently intervene on the clean-up of Ogoni land in order to attain a balance in his policy thrust and action.