From Tony John, Port Harcourt
Former President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) Ledum Mitee has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to demonstrate that the Ogoni clean-up exercise was not intended to create political jobs for his allies.
Mitee expressed this in a statement credited to him while expressing concern about the sanctity of oil spill clean-up in the Ogoni environment under the supervision of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP).
He recalled that President Buhari during campaigns in 2015 and thereafter, made a signature commitment of the administration to cleaning up the oil spill, regretting that the recent tussle on which ministry should oversight and control the HYPREP budget was worrisome.
Mitee expressed: “In the face of all these, I express grave fear and concern that these, including the latest struggle for control, may well be another signal to carry out an election year spending that would drain up the funds available for actual clean up and development of Ogoni.
“It is my call, therefore, that the president, who personally made a pledge to the Ogoni people to clean up our polluted land, should demonstrably take steps to ensure that he is committed to a credible
clean-up process and not mere jobs for political allies.
“Apart from the fact that in the recent past, several stakeholders have expressed concern about the high turnover of supervising ministers over the project, these concerns have heightened in the past couple of weeks following the news of what appears to be a tussle over which ministry should oversight and thus control HYPREP and its budget.
“At a government retreat, the Minister of Transport, speaking for the president, announced that the president has ordered HYPREP to be moved from Environment to the Niger Delta Ministry.
“Just a day thereafter, the Ministry of Environment effectively refuted that directive and quoted a circular by which the outfit was ordered by the same president to be under the Environment Ministry.”
The former MOSOP president stated that the directive by the presidency to audit the operations of HYPREP from inception to date should not be a replay of what was witnessed in the forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
“Remarkably, the statement by the Environment Ministry stated that the president has ordered a full audit of the accounts of HYPREP from inception to date, and I hope it is not a repeat of the NDDC experience where, in the face of serious mind bugling revelations about corruption, a so-called forensic audit was ordered which has perennially been ongoing creating the excuse for business as usual, especially when viewed against the backdrop of the following, that the HYPREP draft budget for the remaining part of this year that has exponentially risen to a record $300 million compared to last year’s budget that was a mere $35 million.”
Mitee reminded the president that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), whose association with the project gave it some needed credibility, has given notice that they would leave because they no longer want to be associated with the project.