Ogoni Clean-up: United Nations Appeals for Patience


Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt

The United Nations has called on people of Ogoni impacted by environmental degradation to be patient while the clean-up recommended by the global body takes off.

This came as Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, expressed fears that the clean-up exercise was already being politicised and called for the intervention of the United Nations to ensure speedy implementation of the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) report.

But the Hydro Carbon Pollution Remediation Programme (HYPREP) insists that the implementation of the clean-up has actually commenced with the setting up of structures and training of manpower to be used for the exercise.

Resident Coordinator of United Nations in Nigeria, Mr. Edward Kallon, made the call for patience against the backdrop of increasing restiveness among stakeholders, especially Ogonis on the delay in the commencement of implementation of the UNEP report on Ogoniland.

Kallon, who led a team of UN environmental experts on a familiarisation tour of contaminated site in Kwawa community, Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State, said he was visiting the area to ascertain the level of work on the clean-up exercise.

He stated that the remediation process involves technical approaches that needed a lot of time to be achieved appropriately.

Kallon, who stated that it was his first visit to Niger Delta Region, noted that he was in the area to have first-hand information on the devastation in the area and the level of work done. He noted that work was on-going in the implementation process and urged the people of the area to the give the Federal Government time to be able to do a thorough job.

He said, “I am here on today on a familiarisation visit on Ogoniland. I am here to have a better understanding on the impact of the oil spill and the progress that has been made in the implementation of the UNEP assessment of the devastation in the area.”

He explained; “There are two conclusions I want to draw in my visit. This is a very technical investment, it is not a rural type of investment where you are going to see houses built within a short period of time. My appeal is patience, to ensure that the required technical needs are met and to ensure that at the end of the clean-up it is properly done.”

Kallon went on to say that; “The beneficiary communities or the affected areas are looking up to what are the critical outputs of this investment, but the project is on. It needs to be given time to ensure that the technical aspect of the work is done properly. We need time to allow the experts on the ground to do the critical analysis that are required before an investment is done. My advice to the project coordinator is to look at a diversified approach with a rural development focus within the project itself that can be delivered in a short term.”

Meanwhile, (HYPREP), the body in charge of the remediation process, has said the implementation of the programme has commenced explaining that it has started the training of graduates who would work to achieve the project.

Project Coordinator, HYPREP, Dr. Malvin Dekil, said over 12 people from different environmental related disciplines were being trained in different skills of remediation. He noted that there would be reassessment of impacted sites during the implementation proper as to capture the level of impact on the ground before a remediation plan is sketched for the area.

He said, “We will take every site and capture the current contamination profile before we design a remediation plan for that area. We will address that technically.”

But Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has called on the leadership of the United Nations to prevail on the Federal Government to implement the clean-up of Ogoniland, which was flagged off last year.

Speaking at the Government House, Port Harcourt yesterday when he granted audience to the United Nations Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr Edward Kallon, Wike regretted that nothing has so far been done on the Ogoni clean-up.

He said large scale environmental pollution in different parts of the state leads to environmental degradation, which negatively affects the sources of livelihood of the people.

He said the clean-up of Ogoni land should not be politicised, as it dwells directly on the development of the area.

The governor said: “Yesterday in the Senate, somebody said that the Federal Government has not done anything as far as Ogoni clean-up is concerned. When we were saying it, they said we were playing politics. But now, it has dawned on them that nothing is being done. So, we urge you to intervene.

“Part of the problem we are having today is because of the lack of attention by the Federal Government when it has to do with Rivers State. We will provide you with Helicopter to see what we are talking about. Don’t only read it in papers. You will really pity us. “

Speaking further, Wike said: “The Federal Government has taken our oil and our environment has been degraded. Nothing seems to be done. “We urge you on your own part as the United Nations to impress on the Federal Government that this clean-up is very serious. Let it not be a political issue. We should not play politics with the lives of the people”.

The governor also called on the United Nations to partner with the Rivers State Government in the area of commercial agriculture.

He said because of the volatile nature of oil prices, investments in commercial agriculture will help create jobs for unemployed youths. Wike urged the United Nations to provide a link for investors in commercial agriculture to come to the state, adding that his administration will provide incentives such as access to land and certificate of occupancy.

Wike said that the state government is working with relevant agencies to improve human rights and decongest the prisons.

Earlier, the United Nations Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr Edward Kallon, lauded the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, for his infrastructural development, which has improved the living condition of the people.

He said the United Nations would continue to mobilise support for the development of Rivers State, and also partner with the state in the area of agriculture as a tool of employment generation and empowerment.

The UN Chief added that partnership would be developed with the state in the areas of Sustainable Development Goals, improvement of security, environmental sanitation, promotion of human rights and prisons decongestion.