Having witnessed the official flag off of the much hyped Ogoni clean up exercise, the Ogoni people are yet to see any concrete effort at the clean up process WILLIE ETIM writes that environmental right activists and other stakeholders are calling for a speedy and transparent exercise as the people are eager to experience the impact of the exercise.
As Nigerians awaits the eventful kick of the Ogoni clean-up, a group, the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (ACLSD) and other environmental right activists, have urged the federal government and other authorities involved in the clean-up of Ogoniland to speed up the implementation of the exercise.
This was part of the recommendation in a communiqué issued at the end of a One-Day Policy Dialogue on Achieving a Healthy and Sustainable Environment in the Niger Delta, held in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
The one day policy dialogue was held against the backdrop of addressing the challenges of environmental governance and related issues in the Niger delta region which the group observed was caused by the activities of the multinational oil companies operating there.
The Region has been drained over the past 5decades with maximum disregard for the environment and basic principles of sustainable resource governance in Nigeria.
Participants at the one day dialogue were drawn from host communities, government agencies, environmentalists, civil society groups, academia, and the media.
Participants at the dialogue had noted with grave concern the level of environmental degradation which they said is rampant in the region, with particular reference to the UNEP report that was initiated over twelve years ago in 2005 by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The dialogue noted that the multifarious expectations from the clean-up process, remediation and compensation for lost livelihoods are quite high given the impression of failed expectations by government and the oil companies.
However, it identified that a good starting point is environmental governance in the Niger Delta. With good environmental governance in place, major stakeholders like Government, oil companies, communities and Civil society groups and academia will perform better to ensure a healthy, well monitored clean-up process which will ultimately eliminate conflict and environment entrepreneurs who feed on the crisis in the Niger Delta.
While commending the federal government for the launch of the Ogoni clean-up process after a period of lull and for setting up the governing framework, the following observations were made as causes for continuous degradation in the area; “Lack of sensitization of the community on policies of environmental governance as it relates to oil exploration activities, no comprehensive environmental laws to promote sustainable use of natural resources, Stakeholders are not aware of their roles in the environmental policy documents
Also listed was the government’s equity contributions to the joint venture which has never been known, communication gaps between the people, the government and Oil Company, regulation agencies are not well equip to enforce compliance with full implementation of all environmental legislation and corruption from the side of the traditional leaders after they have been bought over.”
As recommendation the group said “regulatory agencies should be strengthened to be independent, as it will make them manage the environment more effectively. Health audit/assessment of the Niger Delta region should be carried out to ascertain the emergence of any disease associated with oil pollution.
“As the National Assembly is commended for the passage of a section of the PIB ,other components such as the host community funds should also be passed immediately as a right step to environmental governance, the environmental laws /policies should be made available in our local languages to enable local dwellers understand the applications properly. There should be sensitization of communities on policies of environmental governance. There should be a holistic review of the environmental laws to produce a comprehensive environmental policy document and that the Ogoni cleanup process should be fast tracked and should be more transparent as it has been observed that there is little or no communication from HYPREP.”
According to the report antecedents of artisanal refineries should be tackled seriously as the cleanup commences so the efforts will not be in vain.
The Executive Director of Centre LSD, Dr Otive Igbuzor, in his welcome address, said the purpose of the policy dialogue was to provide a platform for a multi stakeholder interaction on promoting good environmental governance in the Niger Delta using the implementation of the UNEP report as entry point.
Dr Otive who regretted the delay in the cleanup exercise said “the Niger Delta region occupies a central place in the political economy of Nigeria. The region remains the mainstay of the Nigerian economy despite the fall in the global price of oil in the last few years. But unfortunately, as a result of oil exploration and exploitation, the Niger Delta physical, political, social and moral environment has been completely destroyed. The livelihood of the people have been destroyed and the region is in crisis with high levels of insecurity, cult activities, bringadage, kidnapping and unwarranted killings.”
He said the response of government to the crisis in the Niger Delta characterized by legal response, military response, project response and agency response have failed to arrest the underdevelopment and environmental degradation of the region.
He therefore, argued that any approach for the development of the Niger Delta must focus on three issues: human development, Justice and equity. He stressed that it is within the context that the Centre conceived the Project on achieving a healthy and sustainable environment in the Niger Delta.
Prof Fidelis Allen, in brief presentation had observed that when it comes to environmental governance in the Niger Delta region, the government, Oil companies and local communities are easily implicated in the lack of full implementation of environmental policies.