Government tasked to make funding plan for Ogoni clean up public
Arising from concerns about the Federal Government’s commitment to the $1 billion counterpart funding for the cleanup of Ogoni land, representative of the area in the Governing Council of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Programme (HYPREP), Professor Ben Naanen, and acting Executive Director, Social Action, Ken Henshaw, want the government to make its funding plan for the implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on the area public.
This development stems from revelation by oil industry sources that it is untrue that Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), had allegedly set aside counterpart funding for the $1 billion Ogoni Restoration (take-off) Fund.
Naanen told The Guardian in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, that Ogoni are worried by the revelation, even though they are consoled by the fact that the Nigerian government and the oil companies have made a commitment to commence cleanup of the polluted sites, which UNEP says will take up to 30 years.
It would be recalled that the Chief Executive Officer of Shell, Ben Van Burden, had, on May 22, 2014, told the company’s shareholders in London that the company’s contribution to the take-off fund for the cleanup was ready, and in a ‘verifiable’ account. But sources in the company said no money had been set aside for the clean up yet.
Naanen expressed concerns that the government-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), which is expected to the contribute bulk of the $1b owing to the fact that it controls 55 per cent of the joint venture, might default due to its notoriety for not honouring its counterpart funding commitments.
“I am worried about the revelation, but this is a commitment they have made to fund the clean up. Shell has always said money is available for the cleanup. Government and Shell have to look for the money. I am, however, a bit concerned whether the NNPC will fulfill its commitment. NNPC is notorious for not keeping commitments. Shell and the other oil companies will pay. Even if they don’t want to pay, government has a way of getting the funds from them. But my concern is NNPC,” he said.
On his part, Henshaw, warned that HYPREP, which has the responsibility of coordinating and implementing the cleanup, is still not backed by any legislation, and may not be able to draw allocations from the annual appropriation.
He urged the government to make public, how the clean up will be funded.