Buhari And Team, Shell Not Honest About Ogoni Clean-Up: Flag-Off WasTheatrical

The theater was Bodo, Ogoni. And drama performed by the Nigerian government with $hell in attendance. Date was June 2, 2016, after the initial plan announced for the first quarter of the year failed. Yes, it’s the flag-off! They’re flagging-off the purported implementation of UNEP report otherwise known as Ogoni clean-up or land and people's restoration.

As I suspected despite the iota of trust and hope, Buhari through the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo and his team, including $hell Oil and other polluting companies took the world to this theater. As the theatrics began they surprised the world with this statement: We’ve come to fulfill our campaign promise aimed at giving succor to the people. Regrettably, we don't have the money to start work thus weren't honest, not serious so not ready to implement the project.

They knew they weren’t honest nor ready but came for the flag-off anyway. Not only did they told the anticipating world that they don't have needed money which is One Billion dollars initial start-up fund recommended in the report for effective start-up that will show commitment and seriousness. They also told the world that the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) Governing Council which will be saddled with the coordination, overseeing of the project and other bodies weren't formed nor was (is) there any company with credibility and competence that signed any document to start the clean-up.

The flag-off was like a youngster or supposed to be a rich adult who announced he's buying one of the most expensive and long lasting cars ever made so invited his friends and family to show up at the car lot. When they arrived he took them to the car and told them he currently has no money to buy it; no parking garage or space of any kind for the car if bought on credit. To say the friends and family were disappointed will be an understatement...they're devastated and trust lost!

In the Ogoni situation, the happiness and fanfare was near epic, yet the people were disappointed and consoled by the presence of the vice president who performed the flag-off but forgot his team’s toolbox. As it stands Ogonis seems devastated due to the uncertainty surrounding this clean-up.

Meanwhile, this singular act of not being able or unwilling to raise recommended One Billion dollars to demonstrate commitment is insulting to the intelligence, and hurting to the sensibility of the Ogoni people, their friends and supporters. How on earth can Nigeria and $hell, others drill oil and made billions of dollars and still making more billions from high pressure pipelines conveying oil to Bonny terminals for export, but can't contribute One Billion to start cleaning the environment they recklessly polluted and degraded? This is unheard of, nut it happened only in Nigeria!

Is this not sheer callousness, wickedness, unwarranted hatred and a calculated attempt to pacify and deceive Ogonis and the world so the victims of this degradation will get sicker and stay sicker and die faster since the current deaths happen gradually? Is this not the attempted or actual genocide Saro-Wiwa exposed as a result of this degradation and he’s killed alongside others by Nigeria and $hell?

Although Buhari and his team can be commended for always engaging the Ogoni people in respect of this clean-up as a way of attempting to deliver on his campaign promise. The notion by the Minister of Environment, Amina J. Mohammed and VP Osinbajo, other officials that because this flag-off was done Buhari has fulfilled his campaign promise contradicts reality. Such claim is outrageously wrong. You can't flag-off this important project that may take up to 25 or more years and considered the largest clean-up the world has ever seen, without start-up money and coordinating, management team. Even when the project starts in earnest, starting isn’t fulfillment of promise. Fulfillment is when money is ready and work starts; more money and everything put in place for the successful completion of the project even when this administration is no longer in charge.

If One Billion can't be sourced to start this work after six years the UNEP report was released, and over fifty years of pollution, what is the guarantee that several other billions, say about One hundred or more needed to clean, restore the land and people alongside sustainable development will be sourced for efficient and effective implementation of UNEP report? This clean-up also has no legislative backing hence there is no annual budgetary allocation. Assuming Buhari and his team, $hell were honest and serious. What will happen when Buhari regime goes away; where is the legislative framework or law that will compel successive regimes to complete the project? Such law is needed.

Having said the above, Buhari, his team, $hell, other polluters and Nigeria in general still have a chance to prove me and those similarly situated wrong. This failed flag-off could be used as a galvanizing tool. It exposes the truth and brought shame to Nigeria, $hell and other polluters. Consequently, they could put their heads together in honesty; setup the Governing Council and streamlined teams of coordinating authorities of HYPREP and experts with credible pedigrees.

Then raise recommended money and direct specifically toward this project that is UNEP-Ogoni-specific; gazette the project into law and start work while doors for donation shall be open. As I’ve argued previously, the government can also handover the project to UNEP and provide the money since Nigeria and $hell haven’t handled and lacks the equipment or capacity to successfully manage such multidisciplinary work.

If the project will succeed the government must understand that UNEP report didn't say the start-up fund of One Billion dollars is for Ogoni and other polluted communities of Niger delta. It said it's for Ogoni clean-up, though the experience in Ogoni can be useful to cleaning and restoring other areas. These areas haven’t been assessed for pollution impacts on the socioeconomic and health of the citizens.

This means the government must be careful not to allow overzealous politicians and rulers influence or deceive her into using money raised for Ogoni to clean-up other places. Not only will such diversion distract work in Ogoni, it will also not work for other communities especially their environment. This is because the degree of damage to land, air, water and people will not be known except impact assessment is conducted.

It’s common knowledge that giving a prescription drug meant for one patient who has been diagnosed with a sickness to another who hasn’t been diagnosed is medically and ethically wrong. This could cause serious side-effects or complications and may lead to death. Confusing this Ogoni-specific UNEP report and clean-up with other areas will also make fund-raising efforts slow and weak. Yet the pollution and degradation in other places are real hence acknowledged.

Therefore care must be taken because delay caused by involving many groups and lack of money is dangerous. Government should think right and do right by Ogonis and other Niger deltans whose land are polluted, but on merit and not based upon the UNEP-Ogoni-specific report and recommendations. The key and way forward is adhering to internationally acceptable best practice. Government, $hell and other stakeholders including Ogonis must be open, honest in their partnership.

They must follow a credible, just, fair and effective real-time service delivery process irrespective of the flag-off that seems to be more of a cover-up theatrical and not an honest launch of the clean-up which should have seen the announcement of ready start-up money, coordinating and management bodies, possible environmental pollution remediation and restoration company.

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Articles by Ben Ikari