Nigeria’s two major political parties, the APC and the PDP have again engaged each other in war of words over the commitment of the Federal Government to the Ogoni clean up project. While the major opposition party, the PDP doubts the sincerity of government to restore life back to the polluted land in Ogoni, the ruling APC believes there is enough on ground to show the exercise has taken off.

The Federal Government had on Thursday, February 16, 2017, launched an Integrated Soil Management Centre in Ogoni land, as part of the implementation process of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report on the cleanup of the damage done by oil pollution in Ogoniland.

The historical ground-breaking, which was performed by the then Minister of Environment, Hajia Amina Mohammed in Bori, the traditional headquarters of Ogoni people, in Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State, came virtually six months after the cleanup was flagged off in Bodo City, by President Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented by his Vice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.

Ogoni stakeholders have made calls for a lasting solution to the environmental exploitation in their land a daily activity.

But, in the views of the Coordinator of PDP South-South, Northern Chapter, Alhaji Musa Saidu, all eyes are on the Federal Government to see the implementation of the programme. He said it was not enough to start the project, without physical work on ground to show sincerity of government.

According to him “It is about six months the clean up programme was flagged off. It is a very big project and government should start doing something for people to see. After months of flagging off the project, there is still no action. People want to see action.

“As somebody who has lived in Rivers State for 40 years, I know Ogoniland and life of the people very well. Government should implement the project and create jobs for the teeming unemployed youths in Ogoni. It is not only laying foundation of a building that is the issue, but we need to see the building being constructed, that is what matters. So, whatever budget the Federal Government has earmarked for it should go into use immediately.”

In a swift response, the ruling All Progressives Congress at the centre is satisfied with the steps taken so far by the Federal Government. As a result, the APC in the state has accused the Peoples Democratic Party in Rivers of masterminding false accusations against the Federal Government. The Publicity Secretary of the APC in the State, Chris Finebone pointed out that processes that would lead to a successful clean up of Ogoniland had been put in place by the Federal Government.

According to him “That is part of the disingenuous narratives being bandied by embattled PDP politicians, especially of Rivers State extraction, to attempt to launder their battered and tattered image before Nigerians.

“If you have been following up on the developments surrounding the Ogoni clean up, you will agree with us that a steady and structured progress is being made by putting in place all that is required to have a seamless process of clean up.

“It is typical in situations like this to take a little more time to plan and start properly, so that most parts of the process will operate on auto drive. You can not afford to start and stop every now and then. No. It’s got to operate non-stop until the process is concluded. Hence, the need to prevent some avoidable errors. “We urge the reasoning public to ignore attempts by the PDP to trivialize the Ogoni cleanup in the name of their usual pedestrian politics.”

Weighing in on the face-off, President of Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Chief Legborsi Pyagbara, told Saturday Sun on the phone, that in every activity of man, people must talk. He emphasised that the cleanup has processes to be adopted for implementation, urging natives and strangers to support the processes that would lead to the success of the clean up. He said the concern of Ogoni people was to see the success of the implementation.

In his contribution, Dr. Peter Medee, a member of Board of Trustees (BoT) set by Federal Government on the clean up, lambasted those criticising the programme, describing them as enemies of Ogoni people. He did not hide his ill-feelings on the question that some persons tag the exercise as a deceit by the Buhari-led APC government.

He advised Ogoni people, Nigerians and the media to de-politicize Ogoni clean up. According to him, Ogoni people have suffered genocide and were in dire need of a healthy environment

“Well, anyone saying so is expressing his hatred for Ogoni people. The reason being that, we had our own brother, President Goodluck Jonathan, as the president of this country. The report was submitted to him five years ago and he did not do anything about it.

“Now, we have a president, who, from day one, he took interest in Ogoniland, expressed his interest and concern to clean up Ogoniland. And the man has made a lot of efforts. First, he started with fast-track actions to be taken to enhance the process.

“And from the fast-track actions, several processes have been going on. And let me correct one impression, which I think is a misconception by the people of Nigeria and Niger Delta, and those who think they are expressing interest in Ogoni, just like I said.

“What the President is doing is not just the cleaning up of Ogoniland, the President is implementing the recommendations of United Nations Environmental Programme Investigation in Ogoniland. And in that document, there are several recommendations, that are expected to be implemented, that would culminate into cleaning the contaminated soil in Ogoniland.

“So, cleaning contaminated soil in Ogoniland, is just one aspect of the recommendations. For example, there is recommendation that they should create an Ogoni Environmental Restoration Agency. The idea is that the restoration agency is expected to manage the fund that would come to the process and then, oversee the clean up”.

It would be recalled that, during the recent ground – breaking ceremony for the clean up, the then Minister of Environment, Hajia Aminat Mohammed said President Buhari was interested in the development of the Niger Delta region.

She reiterated that the Ogoni clean up was part of Buhari’s campaign promises to people of the area, pointing out that the project was not for money sharing, but investing money for the development of the place.

Hajia Mohammed disclosed that the Federal Government would start the clean up exercise with the training of 1,200 Ogoni women because of the enormous sacrifices they have in bearing Ogoni burdens.

The Minister urged traditional leaders, youths, civil society and others to support the project by ensuring that the clean up was successful and sustained, by allowing peace to reign.

Mohammed said: “The development of Ogoni land is the priority of this administration under the leadership by President Muhammadu Buhari. This is one of his campaign promises. This is the recognition of the fight, struggle, and injustice of Ogoni people.

“What we want to do is to start something that in the next five years, people will attest the government effort. In the next 20 years, we will restore Ogoni land to where it was years ago. From the community leaders, youths, women, oil companies, civil society groups, everybody must play his or her part to ensure that we succeed.

“The clean up in Ogoni land is not just for a particular section of people. It is a collective responsibility. Our wives, daughters, mothers and sisters, it is because of them that we continue to have hope for the future. Today, we are going to start with 1,200 Ogoni women in this project”, she stated.

“At that event, the State government reiterated its commitment to the success of the clean up. The State Governor, who was represented by Secretary to the State Government, Kenneth Kobani, said that despite the short notice to the governor, he (governor ) was determined for the success of the project and decided to donate the land to build the soil management centre.

The governor said Ogoni people should count themselves lucky to be the first to receive Federal government support on the project, even when Ogoni was not the first place where oil was discovered in the Niger Delta region.

He expressed: “I want to appeal to my people, they should know that managing the expectations of the people is a problem of its own. And there is no way a project of this magnitude can be made over night. Of course, UNEP report stated that it would take 20 to 30 years to succeed what we are starting here today.

“I believe this exercise was long coming; if you recalled oil was not first discovered in Ogoni land but in Olubiri in Bayelsa. So, we are in deed, lucky and privileged people for receiving this amount of attention from the Federal government. I will, therefore, appeal like other speakers in this event, that the time for peace and development is now.”

Chairman of Ogoni Traditional Rulers, His Royal Majesty, King G.N.K. Giniwa, Gbenemene of Tai Kingdom, had earlier said, that there must be peace first before any progress could take place in Ogoni land. He said the clean up process was historical in Ogoniland and urged the Federal Government to ensure the dream was realised.

“I want to specifically appeal to Ogoni people in Ogoniland to give peace a chance. We need peace; we must work together in harmony to achieve progress. Let the Federal Government ensure that this dream come true. I’m the father of the Ogoni land, I know my people, if you give them something good, they will appreciate it. This project must be taken with two hands and in doing that, there must be peace”, he stated.
(Source: The Sun)


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