Govt Insincere on Ogoni Cleanup - Mitee

The implementation of the report of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), on the cleanup of polluted areas of oil-rich Ogoni land, Rivers state, has continued to generate heated arguments among stakeholders on the sincerity of the Federal Government to live up to its promises. A former president of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) and a Port Harcourt-based lawyer, Mr. Ledum Mitee, has strongly crticised what he described as political hype surrounding the cleanup of the oil polluted sites in Ogoni area.

Mr. Mitee in a chat with journalists in Port Harcourt said that there was no reality on ground which, he said, had created the gap between reality, the reports in the media and what the people in the affected Ogoni communities knew about the cleanup. He said: “If you were to go to the streets of Bodo or K-dere or any of those communities that very much afflicted with oil spillage ask anybody what they know about the implementation of the UNEP report and what their expectations are.

It seems to me that there is so much political hype in this issue of implementation than meets reality which, therefore, creates a gap between what you read in the paper and what the people even think about what is going on. Therefore, I feel that when you guys are ready, you can get to the field and ask the ordinary people first and I will amplify what they say.” According to him, the issue of insecurity in Ogoni land was not an excuse for the slow pace and the non-commencement of the cleanup process in Ogoni land. “Is there anywhere there is no violence? Didn’t you hear some time ago that there was accidental shooting even in the villa? So is that the reason why something will not happen? I do not think that is some excuse. It is the responsibility of those to implement it to maintain law and order. It is not the citizens as such because section 14 of the constitution says the primary purpose of government is welfare and the security of the people. So if you cannot guarantee welfare and security, then there is no basis for you being in government,” the former MOSOP leader stated.

However a Board member and Trustee of the Ogoni cleanup programme, Dr. Peter Omede, has picked holes in the position of the former MOSOP President. Dr. Omede also told journalists in Port Harcourt, the capital city of Rivers State, that he disagreed with the insinuation that the Federal government has not commenced the clean up exercise in the Ogoni area. Dr. Omede explained that though the process of the UNEP cleanup in Ogoni was slow, the Federal Government was certain to deliver on the mandate based on the UNEP recommendation.

He said: “Yes, the process is slow, we agree, but the reason is that we are trying to do everything that we can to make sure that we put the right structure in place. If you don’t put in the right structure, then whoever takes over after President Buhari’s administration might decide to end the process. The first thing we have achieved is that we have incorporated the Ogoni Trust Fund, meaning that it is now a legal entity that can do business, can sue, and be sued.” Dr. Omede also disagreed with the statement made by the former President of MOSOP.

He said, rather, that logistics and modalities for the Ogoni cleanup were ongoing, explaining that major oil companies were already carrying out soil tests in the Ogoni area. “I can tell you that the cleanup process is on, to test the technology that they will use to clean up Ogoni. This period, NOSRA and HYPREP are taking time to test those technologies. So if anybody tells you that the cleanup is not on, that the FG is playing politics or this or that, know that the person does not love Ogoni,”Dr. Omede said.

Meanwhile the project coordinator of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Programme, HYPREP, Dr. Marvin Berinem Dekil, said that it was not true that work has not commenced on the cleanup exercise of the polluted Ogoni areas. He declared that the setting up of the governing council and the Board of Trustees for the cleanup as well as the appointment by the Federal Government of the project coordinator for the HYPREP were signs that government has commenced the process.

According to Dr. Dekil, “They started by putting up all the governing institutions for the project, that is, the board of trustees and governing council and more recently the project coordinating office headed by myself. Now the reason these bodies were set up was to ensure that everything about HYPREP is done according to a defined and structured process. So, one person cannot sit down and say ‘I want this done’, without actually considering all the implications, especially financial accountability. But now we have all these in place to guarantee that the project will be carried out.” The Project Coordinator said that the programme has the national mandate to cleanup oil polluted sites in Ogoni and in other parts of the Niger Delta region.

“The United Nations body involved in the programme did their assessment in Ogoni land. In the report, it recommended that a body be set up to implement that report. There was no body in existence at that point so the FG in their wisdom, even though the report wanted a particular organization for Ogoni people, thought it better to set up an organization with a national mandate which includes the mandate to cleanup Ogoni land and other parts of the Niger Delta. “The fact is that in an environment, pollution is such that you cannot demarcate along tribal lines. And if that is the case, if you want to deal with pollution issues you are going to look at it holistically,” he said. The UNEP report was submitted to the Federal Government, under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan in August 2011, after UNEP had taken its major scientific study on the area.

credit: dailytimes