Ten months after the Nigerian government launched the clean-up of Ogoniland, actual work is yet to commence in the community, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FoEN, has said.
The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, in June 2016 flagged off the oil spillage clean-up exercise amidst an elaborate ceremony in Bodo, Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Godwin Ojo, Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, said almost six years after the UNEP report, “not a drop of oil” had been cleaned in Ogoniland.
“As we speak, there has been no serious effort to manage the expectations of the Ogonis. While some believe that the clean-up process is a money-making venture, others are facing difficulties to pursue the clean-up process,” Mr. Ojo said at a press conference in Lagos on Tuesday.
“Authorities responsible for the clean-up should come up publicly, provide a template for the clean-up and a step by step blueprint on how it would progress. The media is even kept in the dark, for example, no one knows the effective date of the clean-up process, and this is not good enough to manage the people’s expectations. Not everyone is being carried along at the moment.”
A United Nations Environment Programme scientific study released in 2011 exposed the large-scale, continued contamination of the water and soil in Ogoniland, and the serious threat they pose to human health.
In one case, UNEP found that a community drinking well was polluted with benzene, a cancer-causing substance, at levels 900 times above the World Health Organization guideline.
The report presented to former president, Goodluck Jonathan, on August 4, 2011, was, however, not implemented throughout the life of Mr. Jonathan’s administration.
Barely three months after he assumed office in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari approved several actions to fast-track the long delayed implementation of the UNEP report. Some of the actions included the amendment of the official gazette establishing the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) and the approval of the composition of a Board of Trustees for the HYPREP Trust Fund.
The president also approved a $10 million initial take-off grant for the implementation of the report.
In February, Mr. Osinbajo said the federal government had secured over $1 billion dollar from Shell Petroleum Development Company for the clean-up, adding that a governing council and board of trustees had been inaugurated on August 4, 2016 and January 12 this year, respectively.
“A funding of one billion dollars at 200 million dollars per annum over five years has been provided by Shell to provide drinking water, conduct health impact assessment and demonstrate remediation technologies,” Mr. Osinbajo, a professor of Law, had said.
Mr. Ojo, however, said the government is yet to release any fund for the clean-up.
“From the records we have, the US$10 million promise of initial take-off grant is yet to be released,” he said.
“And that is not even the question, the government and Shell and other joint ventures have come to the understanding that they will be able to pay $200 million on a yearly basis for the $1 billion recommended by UNEP report.
“The UNEP report recommended $1 billion initial take-off grant, but the government and Shell is already short-changing the people to have a fixation of $1 billion.
“Almost two years into President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and about a year after the kick-off ceremony of the clean-up of the Ogoniland, nothing pointing to justice for the people has started. Justice delayed is justice denied.
“The question on the lips of Nigerians is: When will the clean-up of Ogoniland and by extension the Niger Delta begin?”