17 September 2014, Abuja – The federal government has said that it is now ready to fully execute the cleanup of Ogoniland as recommended in the environmental assessment report submitted to it by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Coming almost three years after receiving the report from UNEP, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, said yesterday in Abuja that the government in its renewed commitment to the environmental restoration effort, would review extant frameworks setup to undertake the process.
Alison-Madueke said at a stakeholders’ forum on the restoration efforts that the structural review was necessary for government to guarantee appropriate and accountable restoration programme. She also admitted that the implementation effort might have started late but that it was in an effort to enthrone due process in it execution.
The minister explained that parts of the structural adjustments in the implementation efforts would include the setting up of an independent body as recommended in the report to deploy and disburse funds meant for the restoration exercise.
The UNEP assessment report, which was undertaken at the instance of the federal government, had recommended amongst others the contribution of $1 billion by the government and oil industry as cost of the cleanup and which would be managed by an independent authority with a fixed initial lifespan of 10 years.
Alison-Madueke however said: “Let me make it clear at this point that the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) is not the body that will handle funds or deployment of those said funds regarding the Ogoni restoration efforts in tandem with UNEP.
“It is my expectation that one of the outcomes of our discourse here today is in fact, the appropriate structure or entity that should be put in place for the deployment and disbursement of the funds for Ogoni restoration.
“Upon consultations with the people of Ogoni land it has become clear that the community and relevant stakeholders have not been properly consulted or incorporated into the implementation processes of the UNEP report.
Accordingly, government has been deliberately cautious by solely and carefully reviewing the HYPREP structure to determine the best way to rejuvenate the programme to fully restore Ogoni land as it is envisioned in the report,” she added.
On the renewed commitment of the government to the project, the minister said: “As you can see, we brought all scope of stakeholders in the Ogoni restoration efforts here including UNEP who actually put forward the guidelines and what we intend is that out of this will come the answer to some of the questions.
“I do not feel that it is proper that those funds will be disbursed through an agency of government, that is through a ministry, as you know, we have appropriated budget every year and we handle our projects through appropriations from the national assembly and so a fund that is coming in from multinational organisations, even though, NNPC will also participate in putting money into that fund, should be deployed and disbursed through an independent body that is not actually a federal government body. I think that in the discussions today, along with UNEP, the answers to this will be known.”
She further said: “We started off very well, even though we had knotty issues with HYPREP which we are trying to unravel as we speak because due process is due process in the federal government and it must be followed to the letter of the law.
“Having said that, this is a critical discuss that we are having here today, it is true that we could have had it earlier but now that we are all together and have spoken honestly and transparently, we will move forward in a very aggressive manner.
“I think that with UNEP and other multilateral bodies and Ogoni people and community organisations, we will clearly create a major steering committee and we will face the restoration process in such a manner that people will actually see and feel what is happening.
“We have a lot of aggressive work to do over the next three months because we are going to be extremely aggressive so that it becomes quite clear that the federal government is fully behind this and putting all efforts and weight on it,” Alison-Madueke added.
But irrespective of her pledge of government’s commitment, communities who are impacted by the environmental pollution said that they would cooperate in the restoration effort as long as government exhibits convincing sincerity to the project.
The President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Legnorsi Saro Pyagbara, said it was necessary for the government to match its words with tangible action on the project.
Pyagbara said: “I must say with all sense of responsibility that this meeting today will need to consolidate on the gains of August 8, 2014 where MOSOP had the honour of facilitating the consultative meeting in which the young, the old, the lame, the dumb and all strata of Ogoni people participated and came out with a very strong five points resolution.
“Ours is the feeling that that is the starting point for us to create a new focus and chart a new direction in the implementation of the UNEP report. The resolutions of that meeting are to find a strategic way forward.
“From MOSOP and from Ogoni, we believe strongly in partnership, we believe strongly in collaboration, we believe strongly that by coming together we can chart a new course for the protection of Ogoni environment. I can assure on behalf of MOSOP and Ogoni people that we are every ready to collaborate, to partner and to sustain every genuine effort to drive the process of the implementation of the UNEP report.
“For the Ogoni people we are not prepared for any half measure in implementing this report. For the Ogoni people we feel that all that is needed should be put in place for the full implementation of that report. I think this is where the Ogoni people stand and as I said MOSOP is very prepared, Ogoni people is very prepared to follow you as long as the process is genuine, the method is transparent and so long as there is effective consultation that respects the equality of every stakeholder in this process,” he added.
– This Day