UN chides Nigerian Government over delay in Ogoni clean-up

The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) has chided the federal government for the long delay in actual clean-up of oil polluted Ogoniland. Its Executive Director, Erik Solhem, yesterday said it is time for the affected communities to witness genuine “actions on ground”.

He lamented that for over seven years, the polluted site remained devastated despite promises from previous administrations.

He spoke during his visit to the Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Jibril, in Abuja.

Solhem, who emphasised the process to the remediation exercise commenced during administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, said the clean-up exercise required strong input of experts from the private sector and other international reputable development organisations.

“I was excited with what you showed me on the map on different steps you intend to take.

“It’s just to ensure different components are captured to step up the cleanup. The time has now come to ensure there is something on the ground.

“Let’s be realistic. This problem started when Obasanjo was the president of Nigeria. So it’s quiet sometime the report was launched then come Goodluck, then Buhari.

“The launch of the report is seven years back so there is need for action on ground. The people of the Niger Delta want to see physical actions on ground.

“That’s what people want to see. They want serious actions in their lives, not just politicians like myself talk.”

Describing the $1 billion initial commitment for the remediation exercise as huge, he noted needs for the ministry not to rely on its local capacity.

However, the UN Chief offered to assist the federal government implement the report on the clean-up of Ogoniland through several packages it intends to share with the government.

Solhem explained different UN agencies can come together under leadership of the federal government to expedite the remediation exercise.

“We can make different packages of supporting you but it must come under your leadership.

“You need to bring in people because this is $1 billion programme. That’s big.

“To draw something up the scale of $1billion, I think you need supreme expertise from road construction, oil and gas, cement industry, huge number of people.

“I’m sure that expertise is available in Nigeria but UN can assist because this is very different from running a programme of $1 million,” Erik added.

The minister shared achievements of the ministry in tackling environmental issues across the six geopolitical zones in the country.

He identified gully erosion and deforestation in the south, desertification in the North as well as issues of environmental pollution.

However, he explained the UNEP Report has become the gospel in the Niger Delta region, stressing that anything outside the report would face serious confrontation.

Jibril assured the UNEP Executive Director of federal government’s resolve to religiously follow up with the clean-up.

He noted that as part of the remediation, about 600 members of the affected communities got free surgery.

Credit: TheNation

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