Ex-Militants Protest To Ogoni Traditional Rulers Over Non Payment Of Amnesty Remuneration

In their quest to ensure the payment of their seven months owed Amnesty stipends and continued inclusion in the amnesty programme, the Rivers South-East participants of the federal government Amnesty programme have cried out to opinion leaders, including traditional heads in the area to prevail on officials of the Amnesty office to clear the backlog and stop denying them their monthly remuneration.

Ogoniland cleanup: is this another failed HYPREP?

Most of us were at our various locations watching while some Ogonis celebrated the flagged-off of the Ogoniland cleanup. At first people were thinking the flagged-off was going to be follow by concrete cleanup activities as normal procedures for project of this magnitude. Sooner than later people begin to notice there was still no plan for the cleanup. In fact, the Buhari’s administration is counting on the failed HYPREP to move forward with his own version of the cleanup. Now we know it is the failed HYPREP all over again.

The quagmire facing the Ogoni people in this cleanup is, whether or not, it was former president Jonathan or current president Buhari. It is the same Nigeria and the same Nigerian institutions Ogonis are dealing with and will be dealing with during the cause of this cleanup. Folks know how messy that will be for project that is expected to run into decades. It is no news that Nigeria has systemic and institutional problems. It is also no news that these Nigerian institutions are extremely corrupt and dysfunctional. Yet, these unorganized, understaffed, underequipped, and ill-trained Nigerian institutions with no real expertise in the subject matters will be in charge of the cleanup. Jonathan or Buhari are simply figureheads that only rely on advice from these corrupt institutions. These are the same institutions that engineered the Ogoni environmental disaster in the first place!

There is no gainsaying about the fact that, the cleanup has not started. It is too early to celebrate project that has not started and has no seeable plan. In fact, there is nothing on ground in Ogoniland that indicate Nigerian government is serious about Ogoniland cleanup. There will be plenty of time to celebrate real success, when the cleanup project is afforded real plan and the plan is in full compliance with UNEP recommendations. UN Environmental Agency recommended that Nigerian government establishes several modern institutions and infrastructures in Ogoniland before the start of the project, including Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Authority, Ogoniland Restoration Fund with initial US$1 billion, Centre of Excellence for Environmental Restoration, Modern Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Centre in Ogoniland, and many other measures to enable the cleanup process and for sustainable cleanup. However, at this point every major components of this cleanup remains fluid and tentative or flat out nonexistence.

At this point, it is difficult to believe Nigerian government is serious and sincere about carrying out this cleanup. The government had not shown enough commitments for the cleanup, many have pointed to the fact that Ogoniland cleanup fund was not included in the 2016 Nigerian Budget. Meanwhile the fund for the Internally Displaced People (IDP) in the Northeast of the country was included in the 2016 Nigerian budget. If president Buhari was that serious about implementing the UNEP recommendations then he should have, ask his people to carry out financial analysis on the cleanup. Mr. Buhari should have order that the outcome of the financial analysis and figures be included in the 2016 budget, as was the case with the IDP Funds. The fact that Buhari did not include Ogoniland cleanup funds in the 2016 budget calls into question the seriousness and sincerity of government.

As reported, Nigerian economy is in serious problems the extent some are suggesting the country economy is crawling toward bankruptcy. The country foreign reserves are rapidly depleting and it is increasingly difficult for the current administration to pay the costs of running the government. The Buhari’s administration had been on borrowing spree since its inception - it been borrowing from Mr. Paul, Peter, and James countries just to keep the government running and one wonder where the cleanup fund will come from!

Many are questioning and wondering if the Nigerian government is only putting up this cleanup show, to create access to the US$1 billion dollar Royal Dutch Shell announced was available for Ogoniland cleanup. Ogonis, isn’t that the case? There are more than enough reasons to be cautious with the intention of the Nigerian government in this cleanup. Other stakeholders like Royal Dutch Shell and nongovernmental/environmental groups should have to be cautious in their support of the government plan as well.

For the oil companies more so Shell own company, transparent oversights can only come from Royal Dutch Shell headquarter, not those managing the joint venture in Nigeria. The company officials in Nigeria are part of the problems because of their personal and tribal agendas. Though, some remain hopeful that company such as Shell will not want to throw money at a project that lacks credibility and genuineness. The devil is in the detail and it will be disserve to deceive ourselves by celebrating every announcement from the Nigerian government.

The truth is no one good person or few decent people added to the cleanup governing council and board of trustees would make much difference with Nigerian institutions in charge. It is also true that even though a perfect being like Jesus Christ is included on the various cleanup committees, it still would not make much difference with Nigerian institutions in charge. Though knowing the moral decadence of the Nigerian system, Christ will likely not want to stain His sinless being. He will likely not want to compromise on His divine principles and fierce convictions for what is right and just. So likely, Christ will decline to play auxiliary role on project pilots by Nigerian institutions, knowing full well, where it will end.

The best approach is for the Nigerian government to handover the cleanup project to UN environmental agency to put its best practices at work. With that been the case, Nigeria will be the host country and its role will include ensuring that the cleanup funds are mobilized and readily available. Nigeria will ensure adequate security by working with the Ogoni people to provide safe environment for the project to be successful. With UN agency in charge, it will use its in-house resources and its experience in these types of difficult project to shop for expertise from around the globe, to engineer various phases of the project. UN agency and institutions will be able to fashion out realistic project plan for the next five to ten years into the project.

Ogonis, this is one in centuries project, we should not allow corrupt tendencies and greed to cloud our senses. It is our responsibility as both the victims and primary stakeholders to stand tall and agitate for the best out of this project. Ogonis and its allies, as well as other Niger Deltans should put pressure on Nigerian authorities, to hand off the planning and executing of this project to UN institutions. Ogoniland cleanup if done right, will be an historic event. It will lay the foundations for the cleanup of the rest of the Niger Delta. Therefore, the responsibility is ours, we should not blow it up for the hope of few crumbs that will be nothing but temporary.

Credit: Livinus Inordee.
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