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Ogoni cleanup patronage for political interests, elders allege

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Ogoni elders, under the aegis of Gbo Kabaari Ogoni, have alleged that the community’s cleanup was being used to “mortgage for various forms of patronage, inordinate economic and political interests of some powerful and influential players outside of Ogoni.”

The elders, in a petition to the Minister of Environment, claimed that this was being done through the “award of contracts for a highly technical job such as hydrocarbon pollution remediation to incompetent non-indigenous companies whose only qualification was their possession of procured documents that are at a variance with their technical capabilities.”

Gbo Kabaari chairman, Senator Bennett Birabi, Ledum Mitee and others said they were constrained to express their worries about the “economic, political and, moreover, security cum social implications of the growing feeling of disillusionment that were currently building up in the minds of natives and residents of Ogoni as a result of the worrisome flaws in the implementation of the recommendations of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in its landmark publication, the UNEP Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland (2011).”

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They lamented that it was “provocatively disheartening to still note, that a decade after the UNEP report was released and about five years after the kick-off of the Ogoni cleanup, activities that were considered as emergency measures, and rightly so, are yet to be attended to.”

The elders also said their concerns had been exacerbated by the “increasing rate of illnesses, diseases and deaths in Ogoniland, which are evidently related to the magnitude of hydrocarbon pollution of the environment.”

They went on: “Even more worrisome is the fact that by the UNEP Report which forms the basis of the cleanup, about 30 per cent of the estimated cost of $1 billion for the first five years of the exercise was to be utilised for the provision of alternative drinking water, alternative employment for those in artisanal refining and restoration of artisanal refining sites, Ogoniland Restoration Authority and Centre for Excellence in Restoration.

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