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Ogoni communities lack water, health facilities 1,000 days into cleanup

By Ann Godwin (PortHarcourt)
07 October 2021   |   4:13 am
After 1,000 days in which the Federal Government announced that it contracted 57 companies to cleanup Eleme, Tai, Gokana and Khana councils of Ogoni land mostly polluted by decades of oil spills, the communities still lack potable water and basic health facilities.

After 1,000 days in which the Federal Government announced that it contracted 57 companies to cleanup Eleme, Tai, Gokana and Khana councils of Ogoni land mostly polluted by decades of oil spills, the communities still lack potable water and basic health facilities.

The Federal Government had made the pronouncement on October 7, 2019, but 1,000 days into the cleanup exercise, most communities still lack clean water, health screening and treatment, being the emergency measures highlighted in the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report.

The UNEP report had mandated the Federal Government to cleanup the oil spills in the area since 2011, but in spite of the release of $1b for oil pollution cleanup in Ogoniland, the exercise could best be described as a failure.

Director-General of National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Idris Musa, had told newsmen in Abuja in October 2019 that 21 firms had already begun remediation work to restore livelihoods of Ogoni people.

He noted that besides the 21 firms, 36 other companies were rendering procurement, bringing the total number of companies to 57.

The Guardian learnt that although the bid process for contractors had started, no significant impact had been felt, as greater work was needed to accelerate cleanup activities and meet the five-year target the Federal Government gave HYPREP.

However, residents of some Ogoni communities told The Guardian, yesterday, in Port Harcourt that there was no evidence that contractors were mobilised to site to remediate the area.

A traditional ruler in Goi Community, Gokhana Council, Chief Barisau Dooh, said: “To be very candid, Federal Government’s claim that contractors are on site is false, there is no evidence, because the emergency measures like water, medicals are not there. They only did medical outreach and examined people without treating them.”

Also, Head, Coalition of Ogoni Women, Dr. Patience Osaroejiji, who lamented that Ogoni women still drink, cook and bath with contaminated water, which UNEP declared a death sentence, decried Federal Government’s insecurity in the cleanup exercise.

To mark the date, a civil society monitoring initiative, led by Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN) and Centre for Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) said, it would increase availability of information on the progress of the $1b cleanup in Ogoniland.

A statement issued in Port Harcourt by SDN Programme Manager, Florence Ibokabasi, revealed that the groups would launch a new, interactive online dashboard to allow people find out how the promised cleanup was progressing, as well as release bi-annual reports on the exercise.

The statement hinted that the Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor and Ambassador of Netherlands to Nigeria, Harry van Dijk, would speak during the launch of online platform.

Ibokabasi pointed out that the groups’ first biannual report, which covers up to June 2021, showed that the government had only certified just over a quarter of the simple cleanup sites, as completed.

“Cleanup of the complex sites, which would require much more intensive work than the simple sites is yet to start, even though the bidding process for contractors has started,” she added.