Niger Delta stakeholders have urged the federal government to establish a Clean Up and Restoration Fund of US$100 billion for Ogoniland and the entire Niger Delta region as a pragmatic step towards achieving the implementation of the United Nations Environmental Programme, UNEP, Assessment on Ogoniland Report.
Executive director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Dr Godwin Uyi Ojo made the recommendation during the celebration of World Environment Day in Abuja yesterday.
While describing the recent public flag-off of the cleanup process of UNEP report in Bodo City, Rivers State, on June 2, 2016, as a welcome development, Dr Uyi stated that a lot needed to be done to instil confidence of the people in the project.
He also asked the federal government to implement the UNEP report recommendations in a holistic manner devoid of selective or manipulated approach, but should be a comprehensive clean up, environmental remediation, including biodiversity restoration and compensation for loss of livelihoods.
According to him, “The FG approach is rather shaky, piecemeal, lacking a holistic approach and without timelines for clean up. In August 2015, the government had promised US$10million for commencement of the cleanup of Ogoni, and an inauguration of the governing council to provide for an institutional framework to drive the process. Unfortunately, these warm words have not been implemented.
“We urge a clear and unambiguous commitment on the part of government and Shell that this process will not be a repeat of its previous modus operandi, where it had become adept at covering up oil spills instead of actually cleaning it.”
He further claimed that five years on from the submission of the report on August 4, 2011, no clean up had taken place in the region while spill sites identified by UNEP remained heavily contaminated despite claims by Shell that it had carried out clean-up operations.
“The Ogoni environment is worse off, and the people are dying in droves on a daily basis in a place where life expectancy is shortest in Nigeria,” he lamented.
He also argued that the gazette that would provide legal backing and clear delineation of the roles and responsibilities of various parties during the implementation process had not been scrutinised publicly or signed into law and made easily accessible to the general public.
“We had called for the signing of the gazette to be one of the critical pre-launch activities with amendments such as removing Shell and other oil companies from the governing council because they could unduly influence the cleanup process and frustrate the establishment of a full-fledged Ogoni Environmental Restoration Authority.”
While calling for the immediate dissolution of Hyro-Carbon Pollution Restoration Project, HYPREP, he also demanded that the role of NOSDRA should be limited to oversight functions over the clean up and supported by the UNEP technical team, because it neither has the capacity to detect oil spills nor respond to them.
He also recommended that the oil companies’ role should be restricted to providing their own share of the funds needed for the clean-up process under the Polluter Pays Principle, while Shell and its joint venture partners should not be allowed to drive a process in which they are chief culprits and violators.
“We demand that they should be removed forthwith from the proposed governing council so that the council is free to operate professionally and without the overbearing influence of the oil multinationals.
“Shell and its joint venture partners, Agip and Totalfinaelf as major polluters in the oil industry, are shielding themselves and representing their own interests by lobbying to be part of the proposed governing council,” he declared.
Uyi also said that the government should draw up and publish firm timelines, commencing from June 2 2016, for each step in the implementation process in conjunction with all interested parties in the clean-up process and to be made public.
He called on the federal government to set up a new structure called the Technical Partners Unit headed by UNEP and other interested institutions with expertise in complex multi-disciplinary clean-up processes.
He said the unit is expected to undertake the monitoring of the implementation processes and provide technical support to ensure that standards were maintained during the clean-up process.
He also wondered why the cleanup process was not covered in the national 2016 budget, summing up that “the $10 million fund announced by the president last year should be made available to the constituted board of trustees and governing council to facilitate work.”
UNEP report recommended an initial set up of US$ 1 billion to commence the clean up.

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