Why govt should speedily implement UNEP report on Ogoni

A NON-GOVERNMENTAL Organisation (NGO), Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action), has called on the Federal Government to speedily implement the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoniland, adding that $1.04 billion should be provided for the total cleanup of the community.

The group’s Executive Director, Dr. Isaac Osuoka, disclosed this at a roundtable meeting to review the report in Abuja.

He said the Federal Government also made a commitment of $10 million to the board of Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP), stressing that government on August 6 this year set up a Board of Trustees (BOT) to rehabilitate Ogoniland within the first 30 days of its inauguration.

Osuoka noted that the purpose of the board was for the implementation of the report, adding that the cleanup programme, which is expected to last for 30 to 35 years, had not started.

Osuoka, represented by Head, National Advocacy Centre, Mrs. Vivian Bellowu-Okafor, pointed out that since the release of the document, the response of government had been lukewarm.

According to him, UNEP recommended quick efforts at ensuring that the people were educated on all contaminated water and wells as well as providing alternative sources of drinking water.

He said that the HYPREP, which the Federal Government set up under the office of Ministry of Petroleum Resources, was not backed by legislation, adding that “HYPREP was not also provided with adequate funds to totally execute its mandate.”

“The result is that generally, neither the agency nor the government has done anything worthwhile to restore the Ogoni environment, four years after the UNEP report was released.

“Even emergency measures such as provision of alternative sources of drinking water have not been taken seriously by the government.

“Ogoni community members continue to drink from badly contaminated water wells and bathe in badly polluted streams.

“ In the last two months, there has been a glimmer of light, indicating that at last, the much awaited remediation of Ogoni environment may begin,” Osuoka stated.

“The announcement of the government that it is setting aside $10 million to commence the process is a welcome gesture,’’ he added.

Also speaking, the paramount ruler of Mogho in Ogoni Community, Chief Mene Kpea, said the community was worried over the delay in implementing the report, adding that “even the $10 million government committed is too small. It cannot solve the whole problem facing our land,’’ he stressed.

By Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze and Segun Olaniyi - Credit: Guardian