Friday, June 3, 2016 7:54 am
It is unfortunate that some Nigerians today turned the commencement of the cleaning of Ogoni land into a political affair and debate, rather than be glad that at last measures to combat immediate harm to communities from the pollution of drinking water has started.
I was privileged to have been in Geneva, Switzerland in November 2014 at a two-day stakeholder meetings brokered by the the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), FG, SHELL, stakeholders and over 30 Ogoni leaders. That meeting carved a clear path forward for the implementation of environmental remediation measures proposed by UNEP in the Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland. It marked a pivotal moment for the large-scale clean-up of Ogoniland.
I was in a Technical working group with Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Roman Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, former Shell head in Nigeria, Mutiu Sunmonu and the current Perm Sec in the ministry of Petroleum, and officials of the UNEP. We tackled tough issues related to local livelihoods, fund management, procurement, community engagement as well as technical aspects of the required environmental remediation that have hindered progress to date.
It was agreed that an initial funding of US$1 billion was needed to implement an environmental clean-up in Ogoniland. The environmental restoration of Ogoniland could prove to be the world’s most wide-ranging and long-term oil clean up exercise ever undertaken.
The Geneva meeting brought new momentum to the restoration efforts for Ogoniland. Open, inclusive and transparent, the process ensured that the voices of the Ogoni people, as well as the Government of Nigeria and oil companies, was heard. A 30-member Ogoni delegation, including Mr. Legborsi Saro Pyagbara, president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, participated in the meetings in Geneva.
The atmosphere leaving the meetings was positive, constructive, and participants expressed a real sense of urgency to kickstart the clean-up process. President Muhammadu Buhari deserves our commendation for kick starting the implementation process. Former president Goodluck Jonathan deserves praise also for initiating the Geneva 2014 meeting where a roadmap was created.