Prominent elders of Ogoniland have petitioned the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, over attempts by the Hydrocarbon Pollution and Remediation Project (HYPREP) to tie the clean-up of Ogoniland to resumption of oil and gas production in the area.
The elders said there was no agreement on Ogoni clean-up as suggested by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu in the invitation he sent out concerning the cleanup exercise.
In the petition dated July 3, 2018 and titled: â€˜A Call for Intervention in the Engagement Process and Appeal against the Introduction of Unwholesome Conditions for the Clean-up and Remediation of Ogoniland, the elders under the aegis of Gbo Kabaari Ogoni, the Elders Forum of the Ogoni People, accused the minister of being behind the move.
The petition was signed by Sen. Bennett Birabi, Dr. Desmond Nbete, Mr. Ledum Mitee, Mr. Baritor Kpagih, Prof. Johnson Nna and ChiefÂ MondayÂ Abueh.
Other elders that signed the petitions include Revâ€™d Canon Abraham Olungwe, R. Adm. J. N. Bakpo (Rtd.), John Pascal Nalley (JP), Michael Aloega and Dr. Meshach Kara.
The elders noted that the main objective of the meeting slated for theÂ 9th of July 2018, according to the invitation sent to a few selected persons, was â€œthe resumption of oil and gas production activities in Ogoniland on the basis of an alleged agreement of an earlier meeting that the resumption of oil and gas activities in Ogoni must now be a condition precedent for the much hyped clean-up and remediation of the Ogoni environment under HYPREP.â€
The elders said, Gbo Kabaari Ogoni was saddened and concerned about the developments, pointing out that considering the recent history of the people, the issue of resumption of oil and gas activities in Ogoni was such a sensitive matter that required a thorough and painstaking engagement process with a far broader stakeholders than the few handpicked persons currently engaged.
The petition stated: â€œWe are further seriously concerned that two years after the much publicised flag-off ceremony for the clean-up of Ogoni land as recommended by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) by the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources is now tying the expected commencement of the cleanup and remediation process to resumption of oil and gas activities in our land by his preferred company.
â€œWe are saddened that a minister in a government avowedly committed to due process and anti-corruption, should even contemplate making resumption of oil activities in Ogoni a condition for cleanup of our land, even when no attempt has been made to even engage on or redress the ills of the past. We find this clearly insensitive, to say the least, especially at a time that the federal government is revisiting the ills of the past in some other communities with a view to redressing them.â€
They stated that the Stakeholders Engagement being planned by the minister â€œis a sham to merely endorse a decision already taken to forge a dubious so-called â€˜Ogoni endorsementâ€™ of a particular company to resume oil and gas activities in Ogoni without any pretences to transparency whatsoever even despite, as we are aware, the technical advice of his staff that the process for engaging any such company for the Ogoni field should be by public tender to ensure transparency and also to ensure that the most competent company is engaged.â€
They expressed the fear that the motive was another attempt to wipe out another group of Ogoni leaders.
â€œWith some sense of deja vu, we see these as attempts to precipitate another crisis in Ogoni land to provide an excuse for the elimination of another level of theOgoni leadership and endanger the fragile peace of the community,â€ they alleged.
The petitioners appealed to Osinbajo to use his good offices to deploy the relevant machineries to effectively commence the clean-up of Ogoni land to prevent further aggravation of the already repulsive magnitude of environmental pollution of the land.
â€œWe also wish to implore you to advise the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources to discontinue any divisive measures that would impede the federal governmentâ€™s plan to clean up Ogoni land as promised by Your Excellency during the flag-off of the project,â€ they pleaded.
The Ogoni elders however noted that the people were not opposed to the resumption of oil and gas production in the area, but that the resumption of oil and gas production activities â€œshould not be made a condition precedent for the clean-up and remediation, which is already long overdueâ€.They also demanded that the engagement process should be thorough, broad-based and transparent, ensuring that the free, prior and informed consent of the critical stakeholders in Ogoni was sought and obtained before the resumption of oil production activities.
The petitioners further insisted that in line with global best practices, â€œwe urge that the process of selecting a company or companies for the clean-up should be by public tender in order to ensure transparency and the engagement of the most competent and suitable company for the job.â€