By Deacon, Monday Neka Ziinu
Ahead of what is a forceful push to excavate some sites in Ogoni under acclaimed implementation of UNEP Report, a build up is in place for soldiers of the Nigerian Military to swamp the area as cover for special contractors to proceed on a clean up process that is in utmost secrecy and deeply doubted for its integrity.
It is on record that several years ago, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) had conducted a study of the Ogoni environment following protests and agitations by the Ogoni people against environmental pollution and despoliation of their land and environment by years of unethical operations in the area by Shell Petroleum Company of Nigeria.
UNEP in proffering solution to the mess created by Shell had recommended a programme of remediation that included among others; emergency measures of providing portable drinking water for the people to save them from consumption of toxic, polluted water in their environment; do medical evaluation of the people to ascertain the level of damage to their health; set up an Integrated Soil Management Centre to handle the treatment of polluted soil; build a Centre of Excellence where the youths of Ogoni be trained in diverse skills and particularly in the capacity to provide personnel for the clean up process and then the main cleaning and treatment of polluted soil.
It is noted that not one of the above recommended measures has been put in place. Instead the HYPREP led by its coordinator, Dr. Marvin Dekil goes about telling the public that it is long the recommendations were made and were now overtaken by time. That what is important now is to go direct into excavating sites to clean up polluted soil.
It is significant to note that by 2011 HYPREP was supplying water to some Ogoni communities particularly in Eleme area using tankers, which according to them were temporary measures to alleviate the suffering of the people. HYPREP had also at that time commenced a survey of Ogoni areas for possible take off of the water scheme as was recommended. But suddenly by 2015 to 2016 and especially after the initial declaration of a Ten Million Dollars provided by Shell for the clean up was made things changed and everything went into the dark. News about Ogoni clean-up became issues only on the radio and news papers. Huge sums of money in dollars are been declared to have been committed to Ogoni clean-up but nothing is seen on ground.
Recently, media waves have been bombarded with claims of mobilizing contractors to sites. But we are also aware that background check and investigations have shown most of the so called contractors as mere businesses having nothing to do with soil remediation technology. We have come to know that the companies are generally cars dealers, palm oil production and accessories, construction and poultry farming businesses, lacking competence in handling soil pollution remediation. That these companies have been qualified through the grand scheme of corrupt, mindless manipulations that have become the character of a decadent Nigerian State.
Imagine how the Federal Minister of Environment would be leading a team to the United Kingdom, to under study best practices in soil remediation; imagine how HYPREP as stated by Dr. Marvin Dekil will be sending Ogoni youths to Geneva to learn the technology of clean-up, all after contractors have long been mobilized to site to commence clean-up in Ogoni. What are the possible explanations for these actions that are so illogical and confusing to the claims they have earlier made to commencing clean-up. It is enough to show deceit, fraud, corruption, (what other words) in what Ogoni clean-up has become.
The funds provided for the clean-up programme in Ogoni have been ambushed and shared allegedly by officers of government and going down to agents within Ogoni who are recruited to speak to the media to defend and justify the grand manipulation and fraud. No surprise self- acclaimed Ogoni mosop leader would go on radio to condemn reports of investigation revealing engagement of fake and incompetent contractors by HYPREP. Every effort is at play by all involved to cover up the huge contracts scam and monumental financial fraud that HYPREP now symbolizes.
The only option found handy now for HYPREP and those behind the fraud against the Ogoni people is to force a process of clean-up, no matter how it is done, to tell the public and the world that there is clean-up in Ogoni. The way to get this done is the mobilization of soldiers of the Nigerian Army to swamp into Ogoni, silence every opposing voice to give way to some special contractors to do one thing or the other and at the end declare that Ogoni clean-up has been done.
It is also said that Shell has gone ahead to ask some vulnerable Royal Majesties, Highnesses and Chiefs in some communities to submit ten names each of youths to be employed for surveillance. The youths are to act as local security aids to work along side with soldiers in the different areas of operations. Shell is said to undertake this step to set ground for oil resumption in the area following the clean-up process. It is expected that some one will come up in the name of Mosop leader to defend this action by Shell.
The danger is that the Ogoni people see these manipulations and impunity of government and Shell Oil Company as insulting and provocative. It is all an unacceptable attitude and punitive behaviour by institutions and government that have continued to preach anti-corruption messages and laying claims to democratic credentials.
We have made several calls on the Federal Government to dissolve the Governing Council of HYPREP to prove its anti-corruption position. That the contracts scam and financial mess that have consumed HYPREP should not be ignored and swept under the carpet.
The Ogoni peoples demand that the recommendations of UNEP especially the provision of portable drinking water, the medical evaluation of the people, the establishment of a Centre of Excellence for training of Ogoni youths in skills, the establishment of Integrated Soil Management Centre to handle polluted soil be put in place in accordance with the recommendations of UNEP. And that the processes of the clean-up programme be made open to the Ogoni people so that they know and appreciate how their problems are been addressed.
The Ogoni people will continue to resist every attempt at oil resumption in the area until there is popular understanding and agreement with Federal Government and Shell.
There is great danger in planning to use military suppression to force acceptance of oil resumption in Ogoni. Ogoni people will rise against any such ill-advised efforts. It may not matter how many more Ogonis Nigeria and its government will kill this time. It will merely be a replay what Shell and the Federal Government have in slick alliance inflicted on the Ogoni and the people of the Niger Delta generally through the years. But we all hope for a better Nigeria where we will have respect for one another and live in peace.
Deacon, Monday Neka Ziinu is General Secretary, MOSOP.