The Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), an environmentalist group, has applauded President Muhammadu Buhari for signalling the real commencement of the clean-up of the devastated environment of Ogoniland saying that the delay in implementing the 4 years’ old plan was unconscionable by all standards.
Moreover, HOMEF noted, the process leading to the implementation had some consultations and that some structures have been established for its execution.
However, the environmental advocacy, in a statement by Mr Oluwafunmilayo Oyatogun, its Communications Officer believes that the body saddled with the task of cleaning up Ogoniland should be renamed.
“Certainly government does not wish to ‘restore pollution’as the the name Hydrocarbons Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) suggests. The object is to remediate the environment, not to restore pollution.
“HOMEF recommends that the name be changed to Hydrocarbons Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) or Hydrocarbons Clean-up Project (HYCUP). Better still, the body should be renamed as Ogoni Environment Restoration Agency as recommended by UNEP,” it added.
If the idea is to pave way for an agency that serves the entire Niger Delta, the needful thing to do, while having a specific project for Ogoniland, would be to rename the Niger Delta Development Commission (NNDC) as Niger Delta Environment Restoration Commission.
“There are rough edges that still require smoothening for a smooth take-off of the clean-up project,” notes Nnimmo Bassey, Director of Health HOMEF. “A significant aspect is the non-inclusion of at least one representative of civil society in the structures set up by the President. The role and deep stakes of civil society in the struggle for the clean-up of Ogoniland and the Niger Delta cannot be overlooked. Their inclusion is essential for oversight reason.
“HOMEF also recommends that the new HYPREP or HYCUP should ensure that verified debts owed workers and staff of the defunct body are settled. In terms of the budget to commence the immense tasks ahead, in addition to the $10 million from the Federal Government, the polluter, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), should place the $1 billion estimated by UNEP as a start-up sum on the table now without further prevarications,” Bassey added.
The new body should engage in urgent and transparent consultations to agree on steps to be taken, the competences to be employed in the clean-up and the milestones to be targeted.
“This laudable step of President Buhari should be followed with a commissioning of environmental audits on other devastated territories in the Niger Delta, in line with the call for one by the people of Egi land. These should be the starting point for an urgent and thorough auditing of the total state of the Nigerian environment, from the South to the North and from the East to the West,” says George Awudi, a member of the governing board of HOMEF.