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Renewed anxiety over Ogoni cleanup

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PHOTO: nta.ng

PHOTO: nta.ng

Appointment of the Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, as the deputy secretary-general of the United Nations has led to renewed anxiety about the Ogoni environment cleanup.

The growing anxiety stems from grave concern that irrespective of the minister’s avowed commitment to implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme report on Ogoniland, no visible structure and framework has actually been put in place for the remediation and restoration exercise.

President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Bari-ara Kpalap, expressed the anxiety in Ogoni about the implications of Mohammed’s exit from government’s team on the Ogoni cleanup process that has been stymied by bureaucracy.

Kpalap told The Guardian that the announcement that the incoming United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres has appointed Mohammed is bound to have enormous implications for the implementation of the UNEP report.

“For a person who has shown high level commitment and passion based on her background on the environment, to be leaving that position when no visible structure has been put in place, no framework has actually been put in place for the remediation and restoration exercise, we are deeply concerned. As she is leaving, we do not know if the next minister will be as passionate as she is in order to ensure that the exercise is commenced and completed successfully,” he said.

He explained some vital structures that are pivotal to the implementation of the UNEP report, such as the central representative and general representative committees, that are supposed to interface with the local people and the governing council to enhance the seamless implementation of the cleanup process, have not been created. Besides these committees, he pointed out that a project manager who will be saddled with the coordination of the entire clean up process, in terms of supervision has not been recruited.

“If actually the thing we are hearing is correct and she is leaving, we will like somebody who show serious commitment to replace her. We will need somebody with serious passion like her, knowing Ogoni people are fishing folks and farmers. Our life is dependent on land, and once this continued to be damaged as it is, our lives will be further compromised and that is what we do not want. And that is why we will insist whosoever is going to replace her will have similar passion for the restoration of the Ogoni environment,” he said.

“Our fear is that with this delay and there will be general elections in 2019, going by the way Nigerian politicians behave, beginning from 2017, the process leading to 2019 will commence and that is the fear we have. We expect that government will put politics away from what affects the lives of the people. As a matter of fact, the destruction of the Ogoni environment, threatens the lives of the Ogoni people,” he added.

Similarly, a member of the Presidential task team on the launch of UNEP report implementation and convener of the Ogoni Solidarity Forum, Celestine Akpobari, told The Guardian that he was optimistic that the minister must have made concrete arrangement on ground for her successor to ensure that the project is not abandoned.

“The Amina Mohammed that I know must have made concrete arrangement on ground such that whosoever takes over will not abandon the project. It is a project that nobody can abandon because of its global visibility. The eyes of the world are here. The processes are clear.”



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