*Govt to set up Centre for Environmental Restoration in Ogoniland
17 September 2014, Sweetcrude, ABUJA – The President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoniland, Comrade Legborsi Saro Pyagbara has called for the full implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Report on environmental restoration in Ogoniland, noting that the people of the community have suffered enough from hydrocarbon pollution.
Pyagbara who stated this at a Stakeholders’ Forum on Environmental Restoration in Ogoniland organized by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, in Abuja, decried the fact that no action had been taken by government more than three years since the report was released by the UN body.
He said, “This is the time to take decisive action on the question of the implementation of the UNEP Report. We are here today after almost three years since the release of the report and nothing has been done. We are not happy over this delay.”
He charged that the Ogoni people are not prepared for any half measures in the implementation of the report. “We feel that all that is needed should be put in place for the implementation of the report. This is where the Ogoni people stand, and we are prepared to partner with the government as long as the process is genuine and transparent, and so long as there is effective consultation that respects the dignity of every stakeholder in this process.
“Let us therefore advance towards implementation of the UNEP with great hope and expectation believing that our people and our land have made the desired sacrifices for the regeneration of the Ogoni environment.”
According to Pyagbara, “This meeting will need to consolidate on the gains of the Consultative meeting of August 8, 2014, wherein all Ogoni people participated, which produced a very strong five-point resolution. We believe that should be the starting point for us to create a new focus and shape a new direction for the implementation of the UNEP report.
“For us, the resolutions of that meeting remains a strategic way forward. As we emphasized at the meeting, we need to rise above politics and turn words to action, if the journey to establish a sustainable Ogoni environment needs to be achieved.”
Pyagbara, who was representing the Ogoni Community at the meeting, said that MOSOP and other groups from Ogoni were at the meeting because they believed that “there are no other alternatives to dialogue and consultation.”
He added, “MOSOP believes strongly in partnership and that coming together we can chart a new course for the protection of Ogoni environment. I can assure on behalf of the Ogoni people that we are ever ready to partner with every genuine effort to drive the process of the implementation of the UNEP Report.”
He explained that the Ogoni people have suffered enough over many years of exploitation in the area. “This is a journey that started over 24 years ago when the Ogoni people decided to say enough is enough on the destruction of their environment.
“Having assessed the impact of crude exploitation on our lands and people, we had to rise up and let the world know that our environment, our lives have been imperiled, our water has been contaminated, and the Ogoni people may soon be extinct from the face of the earth.”
He added that, “In the course of this journey, lives have been lost – over two thousand Ogoni men, women and children have perished, and communities were destroyed. The joy of it all is that those people did not die in vain; they cause for which they sacrificed everything is still on.
“This is why we are here today to find solutions to the very same issues that Ogoni people have been protesting about since 1990 when we had to tell the multi-national oil companies that what is happening in Ogoni is not acceptable.
He noted, however, that “When we look at the period we started in 1990 and now Ogoni has made some progress in terms of letting the world know their story, and to prove to generations unborn that at a certain time in our history we did not just lie back while pollution ravaged our lands, but that we stood up and demanded action around the issues we consider very essential to our survival.”
Speaking earlier in a welcome address, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke explained that the essence of the parley was to dialogue and “inject necessary fresh urgency at this time, and innovative methods to the process of restoring Ogoni land.”
The Federal Government commissioned the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2006 to carry out an environmental assessment of Ogoniland. UNEP submitted its report to the government August 4, 2011.
The Minister observed that the report for the first time placed in the public arena “the scientific and empirical evidence as to the nature, extent and impact of hydro-carbon contamination in Ogoniland.”
She said President Goodluck Jonathan had set up a Presidential Implementation Committee (PIC) to review the recommendations of the report. The PIC’s recommendation, she noted, had led to the establishment of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) in 2012.
“HYPREP was actually established as a special unit under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, and its duties among others was to restore all communities that have been impacted by hydro-carbon contamination in Nigeria and, with regards to the matter at hand, it was meant to implement the actionable recommendations of the UNEP Report on Ogoniland.”
Alison-Madueke added that the Federal Government was very mindful that it was yet to achieve its full objectives as envisioned by the administration.
She said, “Upon consultations with the people of Ogoniland, 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 slowly but carefully reviewing the HYPREP structure to determine the best way to rejuvenate the programme to fully restore Ogoniland as is envisioned in the Report.”
The Minister further disclosed that the Federal Government plans to set up a Centre of Excellence in Environmental Restoration in Ogoniland “to train and provide competencies, vocational and specialist technical skills, capacity building, expert assistance and support services required by stakeholders and government agencies, towards carrying out their mandate of protection, preservation and restoration of impacted environment.”