Govt begins Ogoniland restoration in January
The federal government will begin the restoration of the oil-devastated Ogoniland in January next year.
Speaking Tuesday in Geneva, Switzerland, during the follow-up meeting of technical working groups on environment restoration of Ogoniland, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, stressed that the Federal Government is in a hurry to begin the implementation of the report.
This haste is coming four years after the release of the United Nations Environmental Programme report, which recommended that about $1billion be spent on cleaning up the spills that have been ravaging the oil producing community for decades.
The minister highlighted that though the clean-up would take about 15 years to complete, the Federal Government was desirous of beginning the quick-wins from January 2015. She said: 'Yes, the government feels it is important to start the process in an aggressive manner. We also think that there are some quick-wins that can be started as early as January next year.
'If we do not get to do this within a very short period, we may not get to do it again. The Federal Government is ready to fulfill its own counterpart funding that will not be path of the regular budgetary provision, and that is why an independent body has been set up to manage the fund.
'On our part, government is committed to ensuring that this process is kick-started and will continue to take practical steps to encourage all stakeholders to see to the success of the implementation.'
While she tasked the four technical working groups to ensure that there are associated costs of all items listed, she also stressed the need for a financial implementing framework that would guide the implementation process.
While reacting to the call for the involvement of more community members in the multi-stakeholders committee, she cautioned against proliferation of agencies and bodies that may likely impede the speed of the implementation process.
Alison-Madueke further disclosed that the disagreement that trailed the Ogidigben Industrial Park in Delta State has been resolved with the communities and that actual construction would soon be on.
According to her, the industrial park will not only contribute to massive job creation for the Niger Delta people, it will equally extend business opportunities well beyond the communities where oil is produced. She maintained that the park would help the country utilize its gas resources for rapid economic growth.
However, she was quick to note the need for Ogoni youth to be empowered as employers of labour and not just working for people. She stated: 'It is better to equip the youth to engage in ventures that can make them employers of labour. They should be able to employ more people and not just be working for other people.'
On his part, the Archbishop of Sokoto Diocese, Dr. Mathew Kukah, cautioned against heavy reliance on consultants, stressing that the spirit of voluntarism must be built into the youth and all members of Ogoniland.
He further called for the translation of the UNEP report in local languages spoken in the six kingdoms of Ogoniland to ensure that community members are in sync with the intent and letters of the report.
'I have been hearing of consultants but there is need to allow the people build the spirit of voluntarism because the programme is for the people and they should take active participation in the process,' he noted. 'For me, therefore, the spirit of voluntarism must be built in the people so that their inputs are incorporated into the implementation strategies.'
Some of the presentations at the meeting called for the deployment of modern technology in the cleaning exercise as against the shoddy cleaning and mopping of oil spillages as it happened in time past, and ensuring that future oil spillages are prevented.
They also stressed that the quick-wins that should begin immediately should include the provision of water, health and sanitation to stem the rampant deaths in the community arising for poor living condition.