Ogoni risks re-pollution over artisanal refining, says Centre
• Akpabio Seeks End To Projects’ Duplication In N’Delta
Ogoni communities have been charged to put measures in place to address the menace of artisanal refining perpetrated by oil vandals in the area in order to avoid a re-pollution of the environment.
This is as the government has been urged to prioritise the provision of drinking water to Ogoni communities in line with the recommendation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The government was further advised to prioritise the establishment of the proposed integrated contaminated soil management centre and centre for excellence to facilitate the creation of sustainable jobs and proper management of hazardous waters generated from the cleanup.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, has solicited the cooperation of state governors in the Niger Delta region to address the problem of duplication of projects.
According to him, the synergy was the main reason President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Advisory Committee, comprising the nine governors of the region and the Ministers of Niger Delta Affairs and Environment in line with the provisions of the NDDC Establishment Act.
Speaking during the public presentation of its observations regarding the Ogoni clean-up exercise in Port Harcourt, yesterday, the Executive Director, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy, and Development (Centre LSD), Monday Osasah, stated that though the cleanup process had been slow, Ogoni seems not to have taken measures to stem illegal oil bunkering and artisanal refining of stolen crude oil, which now puts the environment under the risk of re-pollution.
He also stated that the alleged involvement of security agencies in the illicit trade was worrisome.
Osasah noted that it was disturbing that the burning issues around emergency measures such as the provision of potable water and health impact assessment, among several others, that should precede the bio-remediation exercise continue to remain a source of worry after three years of the flag-off exercise.
He expressed concerns about how wastes from contaminated sites were managed, saying there were disturbing reports that hazardous wastes were called to Port Harcourt due to the absence of the UNEP recommended Integrated Contamination Soil Management Centre in Ogoni.
While applauding the Federal Government for the Ogoni clean-up initiative, Osasah noted that whereas the ministry of environment and Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) were supposed to handle the clean up as a humanitarian intervention and made to enjoy some waivers for the work to gain mileage, the project and the process were being subjected to government bureaucracies.
“Government and the various structures managing and supervising HYPREP should work to ensure that it is free from the bureaucracies associated with the civil service so it can perform the interventionist roles and responsibilities allotted to it by the gazette establishing it,” he said.
Akpabio, who spoke at the new NDDC permanent headquarters at the Eastern By-Pass, Port Harcourt, also stressed the need for the ministry to work closely with the National Assembly to change the present situation of the region.
He called on the lawmakers to rejig the law in order to facilitate industrial development in the oil-rich region.
His words: “With the inauguration of the NDDC Advisory Council by Mr. President, the Commission would work closely with the governors so that there would be synergy and the problem of duplication of projects would be addressed.
“I want a positive image for the NDDC. Therefore, we must collaborate with the National Assembly to change the situation. If there is need to rejig the law, we will encourage the lawmakers to do that, particularly in the area of budgeting. We must budget for more regional projects that will impact lives of the people. We must budget to bring industrial development, as well as bring about capacity building in the region.”
He noted that the ministry was committed to harmonising the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan with the Niger Delta Action Plan to produce one regional road map for developing the region.
The Minister regretted that the NDDC had not lived up to expectations, noting: “Whether we like it or not, this child – NDDC- has not grown well in 19 years. It could have done better. Perhaps, we lost track of the developmental plan of the Niger Delta region.”
He, however, congratulated the NDDC Acting Managing Director and members of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) for doing a good job in delivering the new office complex, which he described as “a good story for the NDDC.”
“The most thrilling thing for me is that change has come to the NDDC. I must commend the management and staff of the NDDC for making this possible. Despite the criticisms and distractions, some positive change has taken place in the Commission and I like to see progress because I am a development-oriented politician,” he added.
Akpabio said the Acting Managing Director, Prof. Pondei should be proud to be the first Chief Executive Officer of the NDDC to move into a new edifice.
“The feat could not have been achieved without the cooperation of members of the IMC and the Ministry of the Niger Delta Affairs. The completion of the new NDDC headquarters is a positive story for Nigeria, especially when you consider that the project has taken over 24 years to get to this point,” he said.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Babayo Ardo, in his remarks, noted that the site inspection embarked upon by the Minister was to appraise the progress of work done and also to give appropriate attention to areas where the Ministry with other development partners would intervene to ensure that the completion of the project for the benefit of the people.
He said NDDC was being repositioned and refocused on the mandate of the Ministry with the Support of President Buhari for effective service delivery.
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