The delay in handing over the sites of Ogoni Clean-Up Exercise in Nigeria’s Rivers State to contractors three years after its flag-off by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has been condemned by the state Governor, Nyesom Wike.
Wike sees the Federal Government’s action as politikings, declaring that “Three years ago, the President represented by the Vice President flagged off the clean up during the rerun elections. One month to the general elections, the Minister of Environment has come to hand over the sites.”
Speaking Thursday when Mr Suleiman Hassan Zarma, the Minister of Environment paid him a courtesy visit at Government House, Port Harcourt, the Governor said environmental degradation caused by oil exploration is worse than insurgency.
According to him, environmental degradation ravaging various parts of the Niger Delta was worse than insurgency experienced in the Northern part of country, kicking against the deliberate neglect of the Niger Delta despite the fact that the region is suffering untold environmental hardship for keeping the country afloat.
“While we support the fight against insurgency, nothing is worse than environmental pollution. We suffer because we are allowing Nigeria to survive. We are suffering for Nigeria to survive. It is through our oil that Nigeria is surviving.”
“We are dying because we are keeping the country alive. Nobody wants to give us the attention required. These people who are suffering because of the nation’s survival, why not give them priority to survive?” Wike cried.
He appealed to the Federal Government to withdraw funds from the Excess Crude Account to address the environmental challenges in Ogoni-land, saying it should be done in same manner that funds were withdrawn to tackle insurgency.
“They took $1billion from the Excess Crude Accounts to fight insurgency. I say they should take $500million from the Excess Crude Account for the Ogoni Clean up Exercise.” Wike urged.
He assured the Federal Ministry of Environment of the support of the Rivers State Government to achieve the goals of remediation of the Ogoni environment.
“If you had told me earlier that you were coming, I would have provided a helicopter for you to fly over Ogoni land,” the governor added.
“If I tell you I believe sincerely that you people want to clean up Ogoni land, I am telling you lies. Surprise me and prove me wrong,” the governor challenged.
He called on the Minister of Environment to investigate cases of deduction of funds from contracts awarded for the clean up exercise and charged the Ministry to ensure that benefiting communities are patronized during the clean up and all approved steps taken by Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP).
Responding, Mr. Zarma, the Minister of Environment, assured that the Ministry working with HYPREP will ensure that the clean up of Ogoni land is carried out, assuring that the Ministry will take deliberate steps to address the concerns raised by the Governor.
“We are here to set the tone to enable the foundation laying of a robust inter-governmental collaboration which you have been doing especially in the environmental sector,” Zarma assured.
He told the Governor that he was in the state to commence the hand over of sites for the commencement of the clean-up exercise.