UNEP REPORT: JONATHAN, BUHARI AND OGONI PEOPLE
I have always wondered what sin the Ogoni people committed that ex-President Goodluck Jonathan will not forgive them by implementing the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Report for the environmental clean up/remediation of the area.
The reality of Ogoni people is that they have continued to drink water from wells that are contaminated with over 900 times the level of cancer-causing benzene that is allowed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Several times I interviewed Senator Magnus Abe on the implementation of the report but he was always feeling sad and dejected that his cries and that of his people were not heard by Jonathan despite raising it on the floor of the Senate several times.
Four years after UNEP called for remediation, it is sad oncemore that it is an outsider from the Niger Delta region, President Muhammadu Buhari, that has ordered the implementation of the report just like late President Umaru YarAdua did with the Amnesty Programme.
As someone who has covered oil pollution and militancy in the Niger Delta, I have been keen on the implementation of this report by interviewing top government officials and politicians including activists and opinion leaders like Bishop Hassan Matthew Kukah.
I feel elated that President Buhari has kick-started the process for the eventual implementation of the report as he promised Ogoni leaders during the campaigns when ex-Governor Rotimi Amaechi and Senator Abe took him to the Ogoni elders.
But I am still puzzled why a son of Niger Delta will not have mercy on his people. Is it due to Ogoni-Ijaw inter-ethnic rivalry? Why will those who give Nigeria oil get pains in return?
Why will ex-President Jonathan allow his political problems with ex-Gov. Amaechi stop his implementation of the report? Is that not myopic especially considering the fight by Ogoni people and execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa of which the Ijaws and Jonathan are greatest political beneficiaries.
The greatest tragedy is even that the Federal Govt is only to provide administrative support while the main clean up is to be undertaken by Shell for its role in the pollution.
Why didn’t Jonathan facilitate the payment of the one billion dollars?
President Buhari’s directive is one of the best news that I have heard in recent times.
It goes thus “the actions approved by President Buhari, based on recommendations to him by the Executive Director of UNEP, the UNEP Special Representative for Ogoniland, Permanent Secretaries of the Federal Ministries of Environment and Petroleum Resources, and other stakeholders, include the amendment of the Official Gazette establishing the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) to reflect a new governance framework comprising a Governing Council, a Board of Trustees and Project Management.
“Following a meeting held on the directive of President Buhari, it was also agreed that a contribution deposit of 10 million United States dollars will be made by stakeholders within 30 days of the appointment of members of the Board of Trustees for the Trust Fund who will be responsible for collecting and managing funds from contributors and donors.
“A new implementation template has also been evolved at the instance of President Buhari, and the environmental clean-up of Ogoniland will commence in earnest with the President’s inauguration of the HYPREP Governing Council and the Board of Trustees for the Trust Fund.”
Federal Government officials must ensure that this directive is not compromised in the altar of bureaucracy.
The ball is now in the court of the Movement for the survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) and genuine environmental activists like Friends of the Earth (FoE) among others to sustain the tempo of their agitations and monitor the presidential directive as well as ensure compliance by Shell.
As for ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, I wish him best of luck in his retirement but again I ask: who bewitched you not to implement this UNEP report and claim the glory for yourself, region and Nigeria?
I have always, in anger, submitted that if it were my people or region involved in this pollution, I will empty Nigeria’s treasury in a year to clean up the environment and compensate the people since it lays the Golden Eggs for the country’s economy!
*** Sumner Shagari Sambo is a Nigerian Journalist based in Abuja.