Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has decried what he described as deliberate neglect of the Niger Delta despite the “untold environmental hardship” being faced by people in the area.
The governor spoke on Friday while receiving the Minister of Environment, Mr Suleiman Hassan, at the Government House in Port Harcourt.
Wike said that environmental degradation caused by oil exploration was worse than insurgency.
He said, “While we support the fight against insurgency, nothing is worse than environmental pollution. We suffer because we are allowing Nigeria to survive.
“We are suffering for Nigeria to survive. It is through our oil that Nigeria is surviving. We are dying because we are keeping the country alive. Nobody wants to give us the attention required.”
Wike urged the Federal Government to withdraw funds from the Excess Crude Account to address the environmental challenges in Ogoniland, adding that it should be done in same manner that funds were withdrawn to tackle insurgency.
He assured the Federal Ministry of Environment of the support of the Rivers State Government to achieve the goals of cleaning up Ogoni environment.
“If you had told me earlier that you were coming, I would have provided a helicopter for you to fly over Ogoniland. You will weep for the extent of environmental damage,” the governor said.
He expressed regret that the Ogoni clean-up had been politicised, pointing out that the Ministry of Environment was handing over sites to contractors three years after Vice President Yemi Osinbajo kicked off the exercise.
According to him, the two activities took place as elections were approaching.
“Three years ago, the President, represented by the Vice President, kicked off the clean-up during the rerun elections. One month to the general elections, the Minister of Environment has come to hand over the sites.
“If I tell you I believe sincerely that you people want to clean-up Ogoniland, I am telling you a lie. Surprise me and prove me wrong,” he said.
He called on the minister to investigate cases of deduction of funds from contracts awarded for the exercise.
Earlier in his remarks, the Minister of Environment, Mr Suleiman Hassan, assured the governor that the ministry, working with HYPREP, would ensure that the clean-up of Ogoniland was carried out.
Hassan also promised that the ministry would take deliberate steps to address the concerns raised by the state governor.