The government amended the official gazette, which established the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project, among other decisions that would pave way for the restoration of the Ogoniland and other oil polluted areas in Niger Delta region in 2017. But Ogoniland is still affected by oil pollution, as cleaning exercise is yet to take place.
The Bodo Council of Chiefs’ Chairman, Mene Slyvester Kogbara, said discussions were ongoing to ensure that oil-ravaged areas were cleaned. Bodo communities have 16,000 people who are located in Kogana Local Government Area of Rivers State, he added.
In an interview with The Nation, Kogbara said the affected communities have been holding meetings with companies contacted to do the job by the oil firms. He said: “The communities through their chiefs have been holding meetings with the firms that are contracted by oil companies to clean the land. A meeting between the communities and the firms that are going to clean the land was billed to take place last Friday but it did not hold. The representatives of the oil cleaning firms were not available due to some reasons. We are almost arriving at a period, when the land and the rivers would be purged of oil pollution.”
He attributed the absence of oil cleaning firms at the meeting to communication gap, adding that the problem would be resolve soon. He said residents of the oil-polluted communities are upbeat that their areas would be cleaned coupled with the fact that their conditions would be normalised soon.
According to him, socio-economic activities have been paralysed due to delay in cleaning the areas. “Despite efforts made by the Federal Government to ensure the wellbeing of people in the oil producing areas of the Niger Delta, the residents are living in abject poverty. The 12,000 acres of farmland in Ogoniland has been destroyed by oil. Also, oil spills have destroyed the rivers in Ogoniland.
“Farming and fishing are the traditional sources of livelihood in Ogoniland but due to oil-pollution, the residents have not been able to earn a living. They are primarily farmers and fishermen implying that they do not have any other means of livelihood. That is why they (residents) are at the mercy of oil firms that produce and explore oil in the areas. Until Ogoniland is cleaned, no meaningful progress can be achieved in the area,” he added.
He commended the Federal Government for putting in place measures to restore peace in Niger Delta region, stressing that the development would speed up activities in the region.
He said the processes of reclaiming the land and other natural habitats from oil pollution were long, adding that residents of the affected communities would enjoy in the long run. He urged the Federal Government and other stakeholders in the value chain to work together to develop Niger Delta region and the oil and gas industry, stressing that this is the only way by which the potentials of the industry can be harnessed to improve the economy.