…As stakeholders lament delay, call for review of NOSDRA Act
The Federal Government has announced plans to release the first tranche of $10million to begin the process of cleaning up areas devastated by oil spills in Ogoniland.
An estimated $1.04billion dollars would be required to effectively clean-up the entire oil spill areas in Ogoni land, according to a recent assessment report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The actual date for the release of the fund has not been disclosed yet, but there were indications that the funds would be largely deployed for logistic arrangements, including setting up of a board of trustees to manage the implementation of the clean-up.
Speaking at a Roundtable to assess the implementation of the UNEP recommendations in Abuja on Tuesday, the convener and Executive Director, Social Action, Dr. Isaac Osuoka noted that the problem of oil spillage has persisted in the Niger Delta region because appropriate legislation to back up the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) has been lacking.
According to him, “In the last two months, there has been a glimmer of light, indicating that at last the much awaited remediation of the Ogoni environment may begin. The announcement by the Federal Government that it is setting aside $10million to commence the process is a welcome gesture, albeit small compared to what is needed to effect the clean up.”
Meanwhile, stakeholders at the event have called for the review of the NOSDRA Act 2006 to incorporate responsibility for environmental contamination to a separate government agency.
They also expressed fears that there might be fresh crisis if the community members are not carried along when the funds are eventually released, hence the convening of the forum.
The UNEP report which was released in August 2011, chronicled the effect of oil spills in the region, which has also resulted in water contamination in Ogoniland and severely impacted the environment.
The study also indicated that the environmental restoration of Ogoniland was feasible but may take 25 to 30 years to achieve.
On his own part, the Paramount Ruler of Mogho, a Community in Ogoniland, Chief Mene Kpea criticized delays by government to implement the UNEP recommendations four years since it was released.
“Ogoni community is very worried over the delay on the implementation process. Moreover, the $10million dollars government has promised to release is too small by our estimation, it cannot solve the whole problem our land is facing,” he stated.
However, the Head of Oil and Gas Division, Environmental Assessment Department, at the Federal Ministry of Environment, Mr. Emmanuel Okokon-Ndem, cautioned stakeholders involved in the project to give the new administration benefit of doubt in actualising the clean-up.
“I want to assure you that the government is doing everything to fulfill it promises. Let us drop the mutual suspension, let see how all of us can come together and move forward to achieve our goals and restore the community for better,” he said.