13 January 2019, Sweetcrude, Port Harcourt — Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, has said that environmental degradation in the Niger Delta region caused by oil exploration is worse than insurgency.
The Governor also decried what he described as deliberate neglect of the Niger Delta, despite the fact that the region was suffering untold environmental hardship in to keep the country afloat.
Speaking during a courtesy visit by the Minister of Environment, Mr. Suleiman Hassan Zarma at the Government House Port Harcourt, Governor Wike urged the Federal Government to withdraw funds from the Excess Crude Account to address the environmental challenges in Ogoniland, in the same manner, that funds were withdrawn to tackle the insurgency.
He assured the Federal Ministry of Environment of the support of the Rivers State Government to achieve the goals of remediation of the Ogoni Environment.
“While we support the fighting against the insurgency, nothing is worse than environmental pollution. We suffer because we are allowing Nigeria to survive. We are suffering for Nigeria to survive. It is through our oil that Nigeria is surviving.
“We are dying because we are keeping the country alive. Nobody gives wants to give us the attention required. These people who are suffering because of the nation’s survival, why not give them priority to survive?
“They took $1billion from the Excess Crude Accounts to fight the insurgency. I say they should take $500million from the Excess Crude Accounts for the Ogoni Cleanup Exercise.
“If you had told me earlier that you were coming, I would have provided a helicopter for you to fly over Ogoni land. You will weep at the level of environmental damage “, the governor said.
The governor regretted that the Ogoni clean-up exercise has been politicised, pointing out that the Ministry of Environment is handing over sites to contractors three years after Vice President Yemi Osinbajo flagged off the exercise. He said the activities were taking place as elections approached.
He called on the Minister of Environment to investigate cases of deduction of funds from contracts awarded for the cleanup Exercise.
“Three years ago, the President represented by the Vice President flagged off the clean up during the rerun elections. One month to the general elections, the Minister of Environment has come to hand over the sites.
“If I tell you I believe sincerely that you people want to clean up Ogoniland, I am telling you lies. Surprise me and prove me wrong,” Governor Wike said.
The governor urged the Federal Ministry of Environment to ensure the benefiting communities are patronized during the cleanup and all approved steps taken by HYPREP.
Responding, the Minister of Environment, Mr. Suleiman Hassan Zarma, assured that the Ministry working with Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, HYPREP, will ensure that the clean up of Ogoni land is carried out.
Zarma said that the Ministry will take deliberate steps to address the concerns raised by the Rivers State Governor, adding that he was in the state to commence the hand over of sites for the commencement of the cleanup exercise.