Editorial: Ogoni clean-up as a metaphor

November has passed. That was the timeline given by the federal government for the resumption of the remediation of the contaminated areas in Ogoni land. While the people were ready; hoping that the federal government will for the first time in a very long time, stick to the timeline it had given to itself to get ready, it indeed failed on its promises to resume the clean-up of the Ogoni contaminated areas.

The revelation by the Publicity Secretary of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP, Fegalo Nsuke, that at least a hundred persons die weekly from diseases associated with the drinking of contaminated water in Gokana coastal communities is indeed sad and regrettable.

UNEP report on the environmental disaster in Ogoni urged the government to immediately provide portable sources of drinking water for those living in the impacted areas. As at today, it has not been done.

What is even more pathetic is the politicization of the clean-up. It has become the ruling party’s thing, where the project coordinator of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, HYPREP, the company in charge of the remediation project is seen frolicking with chieftains of the ruling party. For HYPREP to perform its function, it ought to be shielded from the debasing politics that Nigeria is known for, maintain a professional outlook and remain focused on the task ahead.

That has not been the case. The project coordinator has become a poster boy for that which may never come to pass. Save for seminars and other talk-talk, chop-chop meetings that have little impact on the lives of the Ogonis, HYPREP has become a tool for which the people are deceived, hope heightened with nothing on ground to show for it.

It has become a hopeless situation; the actions of the federal government as regards the Ogoni clean-up. People are dying, the waters are polluted, the locals cannot fish to feed themselves. They cannot even farm to sustain a healthy living.

The federal government, in June 2017, flagged off the clean-up of Ogoni Land to a fanfare. On November 5, 2018, the minister of environment, Ibrahim Jibrin said the clean-up of the environment will commence by the end of November.

Federal government also said it mobilized a total of $180 million as initial fund for the clean-up with 21 companies winning the bid to resume the clean-up which arose from a rigorous bidding process.

Mr Jibrin said: “Right from the NNPC, Shell Petroleum Development Company and the (J) Ventures; they have mobilised $180m. It is in the Escrow Account with the Standard Chartered Bank of London and the Board of Trustee is managing that.

“So, as far as we are concerned, we can beat our chest and say that the (President Muhammadu) Buhari administration has shown the way forward on this clean-up and we hope and pray that the people who we are working for will have cause to laugh and smile very soon.”

Yet, several stakeholders have viewed the proposed clean-up with mixed feelings. The Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, on Novenber 6, referred to the clean-up as a grand fraud.

Wike during an interaction with traditional rulers in the state said “It is time you lend your voices more forcefully to the neglect of the state by the Federal Government, the devastation of our environment by the oil companies, the grand fraud and deception in the Ogoni clean-up exercise and the call for economic justice and fiscal federation”

Similarly, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, on November 8, said the clean-up might end up as the biggest fraud ever in Nigeria.

Of importance is the fact that HYPREP has shielded itself from opening its books for public scrutiny. Not even court summons have forced HYPREP to open its books especially as the Ogonis continue to question the utilization of the 10, 000, 000. 00 (Ten million Dollars) initially released as take-off grant for the Ogoni clean-up; how the money was spent and a list of all the persons that benefited from the said medical outreach, containing their full names and ailments.

Perhaps the clean-up was choreographed to buy votes come 2019.

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