Ogoni Clean-up: Federation Alleges Plot To Draft Soldiers
A socio-cultural and non-governmental organization under the umbrella of Ogoni Youth Federation (OYF) worldwide has called on the Federal Government to monitor the activities of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) and save Ogoni from another round of crisis.
President General of OYF worldwide, Comrade Yamaaban Legborsi who made the call in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari and made available to The Vortex correspondent in Port Harcourt said steps should be taken in order to ensure that the project is not delivered dead on arrival, starting that the people of Ogoni might be forced to revolt through mass protest that will attract international attention.
He said “The suffering of our people can no longer be exploited by some opportunists and experts in strategic deception whose prime interest is the self-appropriation of funds meant for the clean-up exercise”, adding that they believed that the current clean-up exercise is a genuine effort aimed at addressing the age-long environmental degradation of their land and not a mere political bill-board.
He said OYF is demanding for environmental justice and affirmative action aimed at the implementation of the recommendations of the United Nations Environment Programme Report on the Ogoni Environment 2011, adding that since the flag-off by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osibanjo who represented the President, Alhaji Muhammadu Buhari on June 2, 2016, nothing practical has been done.
According to him, the then Minister for Environment, Amina Muhammed in 2017 at an impressive public event did the ground breaking ceremony of the Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Centre at the School-To-Land Farm in Bori, and expressed deep concern that the site is now overgrown with bush, stressing that the people of Ogoni were dying as a result of bathing, drinking and fishing in Benzene and Hydrocarbon contaminated water.
“More than three years after the flag-off and the laudable assurances given, we regret to state that the manner and processes for the implementation of the recommendations of the UNEP Report run completely against the assurances given by the Federal Government and more importantly, the very recommendations to the UNEP Report”, he asserted.
The President General said in the recommendation papers of the report, it was stated that the environmental situation in Ogoni needed urgent and focused attention before cleaning up the existing pollution and restoration and other fundamental measures that must be addressed, such as provision of adequate source of drinking water, posting signs, comprehensive medical attention, comprehensive decommissioning of oil facilities that fail an “Asset Integrity Management Plan for Ogoni, setting up of an Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Centre and all source of ongoing contamination, pointing out that the sum of $10 million was recommended for the provision of alternative employment for those in artisanal refining, regretting that none has be implemented, Legborsi observed that rather than implementing the proposed emergency measures, the release of each tranche of funds by the international oil companies on the clean-up project, expenditure pattern is completely variance with the UNEP recommendations.
He disclosed that contracts for clean-up were fast-tracked and given priority over the emergency life-saving issue of provision of portable water, as the people are still drinking, bathing and fishing in the heavily contaminated waters and frowned that the health and lives of the people were being sacrificed on the altar of political exigencies and patronages to certain privileged few.
The OYF boss hinted that there have been cases of alleged financial misappropriation and diversion of funds while recent release of funds from 10Cs has been followed by a spree of clean-up contract awards to firms of doubtful profiles and pedigrees that debased and negate the concept of local content, stressing that the award processes had sparked off a considerable wave of discontent throughout Ogoniland that is capable of derailing the project and cause anarchy and rancor, as investigation revealed that 90 per cent of the companies awarded contracts for the Ogoni clean-up exercise have no experience in remediation of oil spill.
In a bid to avert an anticipated protests over the exclusion on competent indigenous contractors, the HYPREP planned to draft soldiers to Ogoniland, apparently to provide security services, he said, adding that such decision is a ploy to spark off crisis in Ogoniland and as an excuse for a “force majeure” on the clean-up project.