By Innocent Eteng
Following suspicions and allegations that the clean up exercise currently being carried out in Ogoni has become a political platform for a few to make money, the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) and civil society organisations have stated that the clean up is far from being a jamboree.
They gave the clarifications Thursday, May 3, 2018, in Port Harcourt while fielding questions from newsmen during a stakeholders dialogue organised by the Centre for Peace, Development and Child Welfare (CEPEDECW) in collaboration with HYPREP and targeted at engaging with stakeholders on the progress made and challenges faced as the cleanup proceeds.
“If the clean up were to be a jamboree, many of us will not have been involved at all. I have personally spent 30 years of my life campaigning for that (cleanup) to happen and holding pollutants accountable as much as possible,” said Nnimmo Bassey, a member of HYPREP and founder of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF).
“To see the opportunity for the cleanup to actually begin is a time that I see as a sacred duty to ensure that our people have a future, that our environment has a future and we can leave for our children yet unborn an environment in which they can live beyond just the minimal 41 years, due to the life expectancy of our region.”
While Bassey said the people’s scepticism is welcomed and encouraged, he however said why much has not been seen on ground is because the cleanup process requires a lot of preparations that will eventually set a structure in place that successful governments cannot abandon.
“What use will it be to rush to begin cleanup without having a prerequisite preparation? It is like building a skyscraper, it will take you a long time before you finish the foundation and when you finish the foundation and close, nobody sees the foundation anymore, what people see is a painted superstructure.
“I believe that every step is extremely essential because it is a learning process for everybody. Nowhere in the world has any cleanup of this magnitude been carried out because nowhere have we found in any concentrated region as much pollution as we have seen in the Niger Delta. Do not forget that Ogoni is just one part of the Niger Delta.
“There are pollutions ongoing elsewhere in Bayelsa, many parts of Rivers State, Akwa Ibom, Ondo State and this needs to be tackled. So it is extremely important that proper foundations are laid and that we all learn and understand the process so that by the time it begins, I believe that if any politician wants to play politics with the Ogoni cleanup, it will be impossible. If a proper foundation is set, it would be impossible for anyone, maybe the next government that will come to power after the elections, somebody will come and say ‘it was not my agenda’. If things begin and where they begin properly, let us see which politician will say the environment is not his or her concern,” Bassey said.
On his part, coordinator of the CEPEDECW, Inemo Samiama, said: “I think that there is real commitment on the part of the government to do something about cleaning up Ogoni land. Let us also remember that structures are being put in place. HYPREP was gazetted, funds are being released and made available and different stakeholders are involved, UNEP is involved, CSOs are involved, Ogoni community mobilising through ethnic national groups like MOSOP and others. So these people cannot be engaged in something that is a jamboree.”
Yet, coordinator of Kebetkachi Women Development, Emem Okon, believes that since the clean up exercise is to continue for the next 30 years as recommended by UNEP in its 2011 report, it is too early to pass judgement.
“If the UNEP report says it will take 30 years, it will be too early to begin to say the process has failed. It is just a process, it is not something that will be done in one day and within the process there are several activities and exercises that will be going on. So it is good for people to really understand what is expected of the process so that when we have milestones after some years, we can begin to assess what is on ground,” she said.