Tony John, Port Harcourt
The Ogoni people have urged Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to use his good offices and stop any moves to resume oil and gas exploration in their land without adopting the global best practice.
Former President of Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ledum Mitee, in a statement signed and issued, on Wednesday, by Senator Bennett Birabi, Dr. Desmond Nbete, Mr. Baritor Kpagih, Prof. Johnson Nna, Chief Monday Abueh, Reverend Canon Dr Abraham Olungwe, Rear Admiral J. N. Bakpo (rtd.), John Pascal Nalley, Michael Aloega and Dr. Meshach Kara, noted that nothing tangible had been done in Ogoniland since the flag-off of the cleanup.
The people, operating under Gbo Kabaari Ogoni, the Elders Forum of the Ogoni People platform, faulted attempts by Federal Government to use oil and gas exploration as a condition for the cleanup of Ogoniland.
Mitee and others noted, “The attention of Gbo Kabaari Ogoni, the Elders Forum of the Ogoni People, has been drawn to a so-called ‘Stakeholder’s Engagement’ with Ogoni people” with the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (MSPR) slated for July 9, 2018.
“The main objective of the meeting, according to the invitation sent to a few selected persons, is the resumption of oil and gas production activities in Ogoni land on the basis of an alleged agreement of an earlier meeting that the resumption of oil and gas activities in Ogoni must now be a condition precedent for the much hyped clean-up and remediation of the Ogoni environment under Hydrocarbon Pollution and Remediation Project (HYPREP).
“Gbo Kabaari Ogoni is very saddened and concerned about these developments and wish to reiterate our position that, considering our recent history, the issue of resumption of oil and gas activities in Ogoni is such a sensitive matter that requires a thorough and painstaking engagement process with a far broader stakeholders than the few handpicked persons currently engaged.
“We are further seriously concerned that two years after the much-publicised flag-off ceremony for the clean-up of Ogoni land as recommended by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) by the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources is now tying the expected commencement of the clean-up and remediation process to resumption of oil and gas activities in our land by his preferred company.
“We are saddened that a Minister in a government avowedly committed to due process and anti-corruption should even contemplate making resumption of oil activities in Ogoni a condition for cleanup of our land, even when no attempt has been made to even engage on or redress the ills of the past.
“We find this clearly insensitive, to say the least, especially at a time that the Federal Government is revisiting the ills of the past in some other communities with a view to redressing them.
“We are aware that the so-called ‘Stakeholders Engagement’ is a sham to merely endorse a decision already taken to forge a dubious so-called ‘Ogoni endorsement’ of a particular company to resume oil and gas activities in Ogoni without any pretences to transparency whatsoever even despite, as we are aware, the technical advice of his staff that the process for engaging any such company for the Ogoni field should be by public tender to ensure transparency and also to ensure that the most competent company is engaged.
“With some sense of de ja vu, we see these as attempts to precipitate another crisis in Ogoniland to provide an excuse for the elimination of another level of the Ogoni leadership and endanger the fragile peace of the community.
“We, therefore, call on you to use your good offices to deploy the relevant machineries to effectively commence the cleanup of Ogoniland to prevent further aggravation of the already repulsive magnitude of environmental pollution of the land.
“We also wish to implore you to advise the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources to discontinue any divisive measures that would impede the Federal Government’s plan to clean up Ogoni land as promised by Your Excellency during the flag-off of the project.
“Finally, we wish to reiterate, for the avoidance of doubt, that the people of Ogoni are not opposed to the resumption of oil and gas production activities in Ogoniland.
“However, our position is that resumption of oil production should not be made a condition precedent for the clean-up and remediation, which is already long overdue.
“The engagement process should be thorough, broad-based and transparent, ensuring that the free, prior and informed consent of the critical stakeholders in Ogoni is sought and obtained (without being coerced) before the resumption of oil production activities,” they emphasised.
The Ogoni people insisted that Federal Government should adopt global best practices, adding that the process of “selecting a company or companies for the clean-up should be by public tender in order to ensure transparency and the engagement of the most competent and suitable company for the job”.