…As environmentalists laud Ogoni cleanup exercise
02 June 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja -There is anxiety on the streets of Port Harcourt, in Rivers State following fresh threats by the Niger Delta Avengers to attack President Muhammadu Buhari while he is in the state to inaugurate long-awaited Ogoniland oil spill cleanup.
Naturally, security is expected to be very high as President Buhari performs the official flag off of the clean up exercise at Ogoni today. Recall, also, that earlier this week, the military deployed warships, helicopters, gunboats and personnel to the region to check activities of the militants.
Sources from the Presidency have touted the event as a fulfilment of a promise made during his inauguration as President that he will implement the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoniland.
The Minister of Environment, Mrs. Amina Mohammed has restated the commitment of the President to personally embark on the cleanup flag off.
However, with less than 24 hours to the commencement of the exercise, the militant group, Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), who have been attacking gas and crude pipelines in the region vowed to attack the President.
According to a statement attributed to the group, it warned President to stay away from the state and from the region, if he wants to live.
“Buhari is trying to visit Ogoniland, but he should sign his death warrant before coming to Port Harcourt or try to visit any state of the Niger Delta community, Biafra land,” the suspected NDA statement reportedly noted.
It added that “We are starting a dance he cannot finish. We shall dance like vultures. He [Buhari] has dared to wake a sleeping lion, but I promise him this time around if he tries to step his foot in any community of the Niger Delta, in Biafraland, he will not go back alive.
“Any Niger Delta person who will try to walk with Buhari shall also go to his grave that day. This is our assurance.”
The Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, called on youths, chiefs and stakeholders in the state to remain peaceful as President Muhammadu Buhari visits the state on Thursday (today) to begin the clean-up of Ogoniland.
Wike, who spoke on Wednesday in Port Harcourt in a state-wide broadcast appealed to the people of the state to remain peaceful during President Buhari’s visit.
The governor also urged the people of Ogoni to be law abiding, adding that peace was needed for the successful commencement of the Ogoni clean-up report.
He enjoined politicians in the state not to politicise the visit stressing that the clean up exercise should be a demonstration of unity across the party lines.
Wike also encouraged politicians to shun unguarded utterances on the state of the nation’s economy and the visit of the President in order to avert political rivalry during the visit.
According to him, “I call on Rivers people to be peaceful, law-abiding and demonstrate the traditional Rivers hospitality towards Mr President and his distinguished entourage throughout the visit.
“As I have noted earlier, Mr President is here as the father of the nation who cares about the environmental and developmental challenges that we face as one of his primary constituencies.
“Accordingly, his presence in Rivers State is not an occasion for political campaigns by anybody or political party. Rather, it is an occasion and an opportunity for us to demonstrate a unity of purpose and our readiness to work together with Mr President to move Rivers State and the nation forward.
“Let me, therefore, advise desperate politicians in our midst to be mindful of the charged social and economic situation in the country and refrain from making unguarded statements over Mr. President’s visit that could inflame political rivalry and precipitate unnecessary upheavals in the state.
“Rivers State has been peaceful and must remain so during and after Mr. President’s visit. The security agencies have accordingly been directed to arrest and prosecute any person, no matter his or her position, who attempts to exploit Mr. President’s visit for extraneous purposes that undermine the prevailing peace and security in Rivers State.”
Wike, who was optimistic of the security situation in the state, banned the operations of motorcycles and tricycles in Gokana and Khana Local Government Areas between 6a.m and 6p.m on Thursday.
In the meantime, environmentalists say they expect normalcy to soon return to Ogoniland in Rivers State, following the Federal Government’s approval of N2.1billon for its clean up.
The planned clean-up will boost socio-economic activities in the area, experts have said.
Director in charge of Environment, Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CHERD), Mr. Obodoekwe Stevn and the Business Development Manager, Cerase Environment Services, Mrs. Gloria Igboji said Ogoniland clean-up was overdue.
They added that President Muhammadu Buhari took the right step in endorsing measures that would fast-track the implementation of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoniland.
Stevn noted that oil spills have destroyed human and natural habitats in Ogoniland, adding that the inhabitants of the area would go back to their traditional occupations of fishing and farming after the clean-up of their land and waters.
He said once the money was approved by the Federal Government and it is well utilised, socio–economic activities in the area and others in the Niger-Delta, would come back to life.