28 May 2014, Abuja – SOUTH-SOUTH delegates yesterday decried the harm wrought on Niger-Delta environment by oil exploitation and demanded $1trillion about N160 trillion to clean up the region and save the inhabitants.
The demand came on a day that Elder statesman, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark warned that Niger Delta might be wiped out without urgent clean up as delegates disagreed over the recommendations of the Committee on Environment.
The Environment Committee which has Senator Florence Ita- Giwa as chairman and Yadoma Bukar Madara as deputy chairman recommended the establishment of Special Environmental Courts in all the states against the backdrop that regular Courts are often inundated with a multitude of civil and criminal cases.
Another strong recommendation by the Committee is the need for resource democracy where the people would have the right to own and manage their resources by entrenching resource democracy which gives rights to federating units to prospect for and develop resources in their territories, adding that this will help remove conflicts between federating units and promote progressive and active development.
The Environment Committee also recommended that the Land Use Act should be expunged from the Constitution and amended because it has generated a lot of controversy since its enactment and it has taken away land rights from local communities.
Compensation for affected communities
In his contribution, Clark, former Federal Commissioner for Information and Ijaw leader, called for compensation for affected communities in the Niger Delta following environmental degradation, raising an alarm that if government and the conference failed to take urgent action, the Region called the Niger Delta would soon disappear. He stressed that something holistic must be done if the mirage of environmental problems in the region were to be reduced to the barest level.
Clark juxtaposed the recommendations of the committee with those of previous conferences and reports, saying that there was nothing new in the report arguing that the problem has been that of implementation.
Lamenting the untold hardship Niger Deltans living along the coastal lines face, he recalled that the United Nations had, in 2011, submitted a report to the Federal government stating that it would take 30 years and $20 billion to clean up the oil spills in the Niger Delta region. He said it was sad that it took the Federal Government two years to set up a committee to consider the report.
Also contributing, a delegate representing Benue State, Senator Jack Tiley Gyado warned that environment would make Nigeria unstable if not well managed saying that 99 per cent of the nation’s problems were environmental in nature. He added that oil spillage in the Niger Delta was the biggest crime against humanity because a community or zone cannot give wealth to a country and die for it. According to him, with the gas flaring in the zone, the lie span of people in the region was being shortened every minute.
He called for a modification of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to now be Ministry of Niger Delta and Environmental Affairs.
In her contribution, a Federal Government delegate, Ms Annkio Briggs who urged the Federal Government to commence the process of clean-up of the Niger-Delta with initial budget of one trillion US Dollars, stressed that what was happening in the region was destructive and caused by environmental pollution and degradation as a result of gas flaring and oil spillage.
She however threw her weight behind the Committee’s report that the Land Use Act be expunged from the constitution, adding that there must be total resource control to enable states manage their resources and effective control of their environment.
*Henry Umoru – Vanguard