PORT HARCOURT – Commendations have continued to trail the decision of the federal government to fast track implementation of the report of the United Nations Environment Program, UNEP on Ogoni communities in Rivers State.
President Muhamadu Buhari recently approved composition of the governing council and board of trustees of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project, HYPREP and also amended the official gazette establishing it.
The new board of trustees for the HYPREP Trust Fund will have representatives from the Federal Government, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, International Oil Companies, Ogoniland and the United Nations System among other strategic stakeholders.
It will be recalled that the Federal Government had approached UNEP to conduct an independent and objective assessment of the environmental situation in Ogoni. Its finding was handed over to the government on July 2011 during the reign of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Jonathan later approved establishment of Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project, HYREP as a unit in the Ministry of Petroleum to drive some sections of the report.
But nothing came out of it again bringing the hope of the people to a standstill leading to agitations from the Ogoni people for the dissolution of the moribund HYREP.
In the same 2013 Senator Magnus Abe who represented the Rivers South East senatorial district in the Senate and several other Ogoni assembled at the All Saints Anglican Cathedral, Bori, Khana local government area to seek divine intervention for implementation of the report.
Magnus Abe who was a sitting Senator then told the congregation that Ogoni could not fathom why the federal government under President Jonathan had refused to commence implementation of the report about three years after it received it.
He said the both chambers of the National Assembly had given their nod for implementation of the report but the delay was with the federal government. He said as an ethnic nationality they had done everything humanly possible to prevail on the federal government to act but no response, so they were taking their cry to the altar of God for divine intervention.
The cries of the people were finally answered last month with the decision of President Buhari to begin rapid implementation of the report.
Meantime, most Ogoni have continued to hail the move by President Buhari to implement the report. MOSOP in a statement on the action of President Buhari said it was a welcome development. President of MOSOP, Mr Pyagbara enjoined government to constitute the boards and various institutions approved by the President so they could commence work immediately.
The statement further appealed to the government to declare a state of emergency on Ogoni environment with a view to commencing immediate implementation of the report, expressing hope that the era of rhetoric and public show were over.
The Ogoni also called on President Buhari to help it actualize its desire for an Ogoni state, adding that the government should also quash the conviction placed on Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 8 murdered along with him, saying they were innocent.
MOSOP also urged the federal government to set up a national monument in honour of the slain Ogoni 9, stressing that the move will show that the government shared in the pains of Ogoni.
The statement called on the federal government to assist reintegrate Ogoni refugees back to the mainstream Ogoni society. According to Pyagbara about 5,000 Ogoni were still stranded in some West African countries. He explained that the refugee saga came up with the invasion of Ogoni by security forces during the agitation for adequate compensation from shell for years of degradation of their environment.
Governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress. APC, Dr Dakuku Peterside lauded the action of President Buhari, saying it reaffirmed hope that Buhari will give attention to the Niger Delta region.
“Our people in the region know that this is a president we can trust because of his antecedent and track record. By this action, Mr. President has rekindled hope and brought a major relief to our long-suffering people.
“We know that it can only be better. I therefore urge the entire people of Niger Delta region to rally round this president as he work
s tirelessly to return Nigeria on the path of honour and greatness. Our region is on his mind, therefore we must do everything possible to support this administration,“ he said.
Niger Delta Civil Society Coalition also hailed the decision of the government, saying it will relieve Ogoni of what it termed sentence of environmental death.
Chairman of the group, Mr Anyakwee Nsirimovu on his part appealed to Ogoni to unite to ensure successful implementation of the report.
“The Buhari administration is most commended, especially in taking the bold decision to relieve the people of Ogoni of the sentence of environmental death”, the group said.
Senator Magnus Abe, who represented the Rivers South East senatorial district in the Senate lauded the move, describing it as a step in the right direction. He congratulated President Buhari for doing what former President Jonathan, a son from the region could not do for the area in six years as President of the country.
A frontline Ogoni activist, Comrade Celestine Akpobari who also hailed the development described it as a step forward, adding that former President Jonathan failed to take practical and appreciable step on the report all the while he was President.
He however urged the federal government to allow civil society to be represented in the process towards implementation of the report.
He said the development from the part of the federal government also took cognizance of livelihood and sustainability in Ogoni area, an issue the UNEP report according to him did not look at.
Meantime, President of Ogoni Central Indigenous Authority, Mr Goodluck Diigbo, in a statement from his overseas abode said the action of the Federal Government ignored the technical demands of the UNEP reports, stressing that it could further deepen tension and crisis in Ogoni.
Diigbo, who led a faction of MOSOP until recently, alleged that President Buhari relied on recommendations of non experts in his action.
“Even though the report remains disputed, many of EIAS measures investigated, and clarified in the report, are missing“The recommendations are secret, and reliance on non-experts is not only misguided, but, unacceptable,” he said.
“Buhari may have a good intention, but, his expressed intentions might deepen old wounds. For instance, Buhari avoided specific mention of recommendations by UNEP, including Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Authority and the Environmental Restoration Fund for Ogoniland.”
“Next, we the Ogoni people are not aware of any Special UNEP Representative for Ogoniland. We don’t have one. Buhari’s intentions have created considerable confusion and resentment,” he said.