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Journalists Set Agenda For N’Delta Environment

Environmental issues in the Niger Delta have over the decades attracted global attention in view of the monumental social and economic challenges posed by the oil exploration activities of multinationals and criminal elements in the region. The effect has been that lives of residents of the area have come under serious threat and many communities are on the verse of being wiped out by the massive environmental pollution arising from oil exploration and production.

The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoniland released in 2011 detailed the intractable situation of the people of the area and recommended the need for an action plan by the Nigerian authorities for immediate remediation of the environment.

The setting of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) by the Nigerian government was seen as a laudable move towards the clean-up of the impacted areas of the Ogoni land. But years after so much delays and subsequent take off, the activities of HYPREP have raised many questions as to its sincerity, seriousness and capacity to carry through and implement the project with all the specifications and standards set out in the UNEP report.

This was what the Correspondent chapel of the Nigerian Union Journalist (NUJ) set out to examine during its 2019 week held in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State Capital.

The week-long activities began on Monday, December 2nd at the Presidential Hotel in Port Harcourt with the theme; Role of the Media in protecting the Rivers environment. Quality resource persons that assembled to discuss the issues at stake point to the seriousness and commitment of the organizers of the event.

Chaired by the chairman of the Rivers State Investment Forum, Ibifuro Bobmanuel, participant at the event which include social and environmental activists such as Comrade Celestine Akpoborie, University dons, traditional rulers and representatives of oil companies and the media took turns to task media practitioners to take interest and unflinching commitments in the crises and challenges of  the issues emanating from of the Rivers environment.

On Day 2 of the event, the Chairman of the Correspondent Chapel, Chief Ernest Chinwo, took the members of the organization on facilities tour including a visit to the Indorama Fertilizer Company in Eleme local government area of the state.

The Ogoni clean-up programme took the centre stage at a symposium held on Wednesday, December 4 at the NUJ secretariat, where eminent discussants including the president of the apex Ogoni socio-cultural organization, the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People MOSOP, Mr. Legborsi Pyiagbara, Dr. Chika Onuegbum, former Vice Chancellor of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Prof. B. B. Fakae, who chaired the symposium; titled “UNEP Report: Accessing Stakeholders compliance in Ogoni cleanup”, subjected the operations of the Hydrocarbon Pollution and Remediation Project (HYPREP) in Ogoni land to critical reviews.

A fundamental outcome of this discussion according to the communiqué issued at the end of event was that the effectiveness of HYPREP in the implementation of the UNEP Report is being hampered by bureaucratic bottlenecks put on its way by the Federal Government.

The nine point communiqué which was endorsed by the event organizing Chairman, Ignatius Chukwu and Chairman of the Chapel, Chief Ernest Chinwo emphasized the need for Nigerians and the government to take issues of the environment more committedly in the interest of national and environmental safety.

The communiqué noted that the project to cleanup Ogoni land has been discomfortingly slow for any notable impact. Participants were of the view that the remediation should be followed with conformation and monitoring as a way of preventing further degradation of the environment, as this is the way for the UNEP Report and clean-up of the area to witness reliable results.

Another salient observation in the communiqué was fears raised by participants that the UNEP report may not be the valid solution to the environmental degradation of the area considering the likely influence of oil multinationals.

Although the media was highly commended for its interest in the challenges of the environment in the state and Nigeria generally, the journalists need to do more to highlight the dangers to human health caused by deliberate and inadvertent activities of individuals and groups.

Members of the Correspondents’ chapel should be commended for the boldness in the choice of the themes of their 2019 week as the steps they took would certainly go a long way to provoke greater action on the UNEP report and clean-up of Ogoniland and also to protect our environment and save the Niger Delta and humanity from possible extinction.

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