Lack of funds may hinder Ogoni cleanup
• Govt warns against extorting residents
As the Federal Government inaugurates both the governing council and board of trustees for the cleanup of Ogoniland tomorrow, there is apprehension that a paucity of funds may hinder the execution of the project.
The inauguration of the 13-member governing council and 10-member board of trustees tomorrow will commemorate the fifth anniversary of the submission of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoniland to the Federal Government under the then president Goodluck Jonathan.
Both members of the governing council and board of trustees are expected to oversee the implementation of the UNEP report which revealed widespread environmental pollution in Ogoni, Rivers State.
The Guardian findings revealed that contrary to expectation that $1billion has been set aside to finance the cleanup, such fund does not exist at present.A source in one of the oil companies, who pleaded anonymity, revealed that the said $1 billion was not ready. The funds which will be used for the remediation is expected to be contributed over the next five years by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its joint venture partners such as Shell Petroleum Development Company, Total and Nigeria Agip Oil Company.
“It is the joint venture partners that are supposed to come up with 90 per cent of the funding. It is not factual that any oil company has kept money aside to fund the cleanup. For the government there is implication for funding, NNPC has to come up with its share of the funding. There is no $1 billion anywhere that Shell has kept,” the source said.
It was learnt that from the 2016 N6.6 trillion budget, only N19,473,373,106 is allocated to the Ministry of Environment. The sum of N13,050,150,656 will be spent on personnel this fiscal year, while N4,957,964,638 is allocated for capital expenditure. To this end, there is no allocation for the cleanup. It was also learnt that the minister of environment who is likely to emerge the chairman of the governing council is expected to include the Ogoni cleanup in the 2017 budget.
A lack of effective governance for the implementation of the UNEP report had been largely responsible for the reason the oil companies have not contributed their counterpart funding for the project. The Guardian learnt that the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) set up to oversee the cleanup of Ogoniland and the entire Niger Delta by the Jonathan’s administration, which did nothing significant, left behind a debt of N6 billion.
In a related development, the Federal Ministry of Environment has said it has come to its knowledge that some dubious individuals may use the opportunity of the Ogoni cleanup project to extort unsuspecting people of the Niger Delta communities through forgery of letters in the name of Federal Government agencies.
In a statement, the ministry said: “We wish to state that the Federal Government, in collaboration with other stakeholders in the oil industry, is funding the project and has not and will not authorise or contract individuals, groups and or organisations to collect money for the purpose of cleaning up of Ogoniland and other oil-impacted communities in the Niger Delta.”
The statement by the Director of Press, Ishiaka Yusuf, warned that anybody, groups or organisations found extorting the people for the purpose of the Ogoniland cleanup would be made to face the full wrath of the law.
The ministry urged members of the public to report anybody, group or organisation collecting money from people for the cleanup to the police or any other law enforcement agencies.
Meanwhile, attempts by Shell to resume the cleanup of contaminated spill sites in Bodo community in Gokana Local Council have been stalled by the insistence of the people that the contractors should be nominated from their area.
The federal regulatory agencies, in collaboration with Shell, had awarded the contract for the Bodo oil spill remediation, but the community stopped the contractors from carrying out the project in September 2015.