From Isaac Anumihe, Abuja
As the agitations for the Ogoni cleanup heightens, Federal Government has promised to address the concerns raised by the Ogoni Community about the environmental remediation of oil impacted sites in the area.
Minister of State for Environment Sharon Ikeazor made the promise while addressing community leaders, youths, women groups and other stakeholders in Ogoni at a forum held in Bori, the Council Headquarters of Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State.
She explained that the essence of the meeting was to interact with them to find out the areas of the project they think needed improvement to better deliver on the mandate of the project and not the usual reading of prepared speeches.
“I would like to hear from you, and I will respond and tell you what we have planned for the Ogoniland clean-up project.
“I know we are behind schedule in some key areas, and I appreciate the concerns you raised here today about the project as this will help us to work together to fast-track the process taking into consideration the benefits to the communities” the minister, explained.
Ikeazor added that the youths will be engaged as Environmental Surveillance Officers.
“We want to work with the youths and women groups to acquire the skills and be empowered for a sustainable living so that we would not be doing this over and over again” she assured.
Earlier, the Project Co-ordinator of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), Professor Philip Shekwolo had briefed the stakeholders on the achievements of the project in the areas of remediation, provision of potable water and livelihood training programmes, among others.
Similarly, His Royal Majesty, King Godwin Gininwa the Gbenemene of Tai Kingdom said, though HYPREP is not for only Ogoni, Ogoni people should be considered first before other communities as they have suffered so much degradation in their land.
In a statement, the Royal Father appealed to the Federal Government to commence work on the proposed University of Environment to be sited in Ogoniland as it will assist in educating and training the people and put them in a better position to assist the community in managing the environment.
Former President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and member of GBO KABAARI, Barrister Ledum Mitee in his remarks called for more visible benefits on the lives of Ogoni people.
“What we do that does not affect the life of our people is not clean-up. I will call what is happening a patronage mechanism and we need to diffuse it and make it inclusive for the effect of the clean-up to be felt by Ogoni people,” he noted.
Mitee further called for the establishment of industries in the region to employ more people instead of giving handouts.
The Local Government Council Chairman of Khana, Bariere Thomas, speaking on behalf of the Chairmen of Gokana, Eleme, and Tai, reiterated their support for HYPREP and pledged their commitment to the success of the clean-up project.
He also appealed to HYPREP to commence the building of the Centre of Excellence as outlined in the United Nations Environmental Programmes (UNEP) report and commended the Minister on her pragmatic steps to set HYPREP on the right path.
“I want to, on behalf of my colleagues, assure you that we are impressed with your leadership as we have seen humility, commitment and sincerity of purpose in your approach,” he said.