‘Ogoni cleanup delay could trigger COVID-19 deaths’
Environmental experts have expressed worry that oil polluted Ogoniland is likely to be vulnerable to COVID-19 pandemic due to prolonged delay in the clean-up exercise, which began five years ago in Niger Delta region.
In addition, they added that hand washing is now done with contaminated water, which is a serious set back in an attempt to contain the novel coronavirus, especially, in the oil polluted Ogoniland and South South geopolitical zone.
The experts made these during a Virtual Conference, organised by Cordaid and Kebetkache Women Development and Resources Centre, aimed at reviewing the process of the implementation of UNEP report on the cleanup project.
One of them, Dr. Nnimmo Bassey noted that the use of contaminated water, and living in contaminated environment may halt the ongoing fight against the novel coronavirus since the people depend on poisoned waters for regular hand washing in the area.
He also added that recent investigation shows that there is seven metres depth pollution underground water in Eleme, Rivers State, adding, clean-up project is a massive and complicated one, and it is just the beginning.
Similarly, Bassey explained that, some new pollution are building up, and Ogoni is the laboratory for figuring out the best protocols for tackling what we may term historical and continuing Ecocide in the region.
Also speaking, Dr. Samuel Kabari said “the project has many challenges, and setbacks, but a least the process has began, adding, our major fear is the emergency measures that has been jettisoned by federal government, and others.”
According to him, the contractors terms of reference does not include, or extend to ground water remediation, which stakeholders must ensure contracts are given to people with prerequisite expertise.
Contributing, Head, Ogoni Traditional Council, Chief Suanu Baridan, regretted, that conflict remains imminent in the cleanup process, and so locals must be carried along to avoid rancour, and funds for the project comes in from NNPC.
In her part, Emend Okon of Kebetkache Women Development and Resources Centre stressed that womenfolk and children are suffering as a result of lockdown restrictions, saying, they should be carried along in all processes of Ogoni cleanup exercise.