A senator, Magnus Abe (APC, Rivers), has blamed the slow pace of the proposed clean-up exercise in the oil-rich Ogoni land in Rivers State on insecurity.
He said this while addressing journalists on Thursday.
He said no meaningful clean-up exercise could take place in Ogoni land at the moment due to serious security challenges in the area.
Ogoni area in Rivers State has over the years been destroyed by oil spills leading to the destruction of surrounding waters and farm lands.
A report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recommended the total clean up of the environment saying the extent of water and environmental pollution in the Rivers communities was alarming.
Although the report was released during the Goodluck Jonathan administration, in 2011, the administration did little to carry out the clean up.
President Muhammadu Buhari shortly after his assumption of office in 2015 launched the clean-up exercise.
An investigation by PREMIUM TIMES last year showed that despite official claims, the clean-up was yet to start.
The Minister of Environment, Ibrahim Jibril, had in November 2018, said his ministry has reached the final stage of procurement processes that will lead to the award of contracts to 21 firms so the exercise can finally begin.
Mr Abe, who was asked if work has started in Ogoni land, said despite the award of contracts to the contractors that would carry out the clean-up, the exercise would be stalled due to the security challenges in the area.
“I am aware that contracts for the clean up of Ogoni land have been awarded. Right now, as we speak, the security situation in the area does not provide for a meaningful economic or even contractual activity to go on.
“Everyday, at least six people are killed in one community or the other. There is no day that they are not killing people. Many residents of the various communities have abandoned their homes and ran away due to violence. So, in that kind of atmosphere, it will be difficult for me to say there is any contractor somewhere in the bush alone, working.
“I don’t think that is possible at this time to do the clean-up but I know that contracts have been awarded and I believe that it is our responsibility as a nation to address these security issues so that real development can take place,” he said.
The senator also said any clean up that goes on without first addressing the issue of the continued pollution of the environment “is a waste of everybody’s money because as the clean up is going on, the criminals will be spoiling the exercise.”
Mr Abe’s address to journalists came shortly after his bill on the establishment of a university of environment, science and agriculture, scaled second reading in the Senate.