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FG yet to set up mechanism for Ogoni cleanup

By Kelvin Ebiri, Port Harcourt
12 June 2016   |   4:55 am
Ten days after President Muhammad Buhari flagged off the cleanup of Ogoniland, the Federal Government is yet to put in place the requisite structures to commence the actual implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme report on Ogoniland.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (left);  Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike; and Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha during the launch of the clean-up of Ogoni land by the Vice President…yesterday at Bodo.  PHOTO: GOVERNMENT HOUSE

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (left);  Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike; and Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha during the launch of the clean-up of Ogoni land by the Vice President…yesterday at Bodo.  PHOTO: GOVERNMENT HOUSE

Ten days after President Muhammad Buhari flagged off the cleanup of Ogoniland, the Federal Government is yet to put in place the requisite structures to commence the actual implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme report on Ogoniland.

The delay is already causing anxiety in Ogoni, as groups like the Ogoni Solidarity Forum and the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) have called on government to, without further delay inaugurate the governance mechanisms for the implementation of the UNEP report.

Vice President Yemi Osibanjo had on behalf of President Buhari flagged off the cleanup of Ogoni at Bodo, in Ogoniland, on Thursday, but didn’t announce the requisite governance structures for the implementation of the cleanup.

The Federal Government is yet to establish two critical governance mechanisms, namely: the governing council and the board of trustees. Besides these two bodies, the government is also yet to advertise for the position of a project coordinator, who will oversee the day to day implementation of the cleanup.

MOSOP had called on the Federal Government to take concrete post-launch steps relating to the implementation of the UNEP environmental assessment report on Ogoniland, by inaugurating the governance mechanisms (the Governing Council, Board of Trustees and the Trust Fund) of the reformed Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Programme (HYPREP), to underline its publicly declared commitment to remediating and restoring the hydrocarbon degraded Ogoni environment.

The structures are supposed to be responsible for the co-ordination of activities and management of funds, hence the rejuvenation exercise cannot commence without these organs.

The coordinator of Ogoni Solidarity Forum, Mr. Celestine Akpobari, who has been actively involved in the negotiations leading to the cleanup flag off, told The Guardian that a lot of Ogoni people had waited in anticipation of the next stage.

“I was expecting they would have announced the governing council and board of trustee. It took long to ratify the list. The President and the Minister of Environment are committed to implementation of the Ogoni cleanup. The minister is a woman of integrity. She used to be a staff of the United Nations, and chairs lots of environmental groups in Africa. Her presence in government gives us hope of government’s commitment” he said.

Akpobari explained that the clean up will be predominately funded by Shell Petroleum Development Company, as the policy of polluter pay principle will be applied. According to him, the Shell might pay as much as ninety percent of the fund required for the clean up, while the government and donor agencies will each contribute five percent of the funds required for the clean up.

He revealed that save for the minister’s insistence, some vested groups opposed to the Ogoni clean up had mounted pressure on the government to commence the cleanup in other parts of the Niger Delta instead of Ogoni.

The Guardian gathered that the committee on the centre of excellence to determine where the centre will be set up has already submitted its report to the government.

The report recommended establishing three new institutions in Nigeria to support a comprehensive environmental restoration exercise.
UNEP proposed Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Authority to oversee implementation of the study’s recommendations and should be set up during a Transition Phase, which UNEP suggests should begin as soon as possible. The Authority’s activities, UNEP recommended  should be funded by an Environmental Restoration Fund for Ogoniland, to be set up with an initial capital injection of US$1b contributed by the oil industry and the government, to cover the first five years of the cleanup project.

Government was asked to set up an Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Centre, to be built in Ogoniland and supported by potentially hundreds of mini treatment centres, to treat contaminated soil and provide hundreds of job opportunities. And finally, the report also recommends creating a Centre of Excellence in Environmental Restoration in Ogoniland to promote learning and benefit other communities impacted by oil contamination in the Niger Delta and elsewhere in the world.