Home Feature Clean-up: We’re still drinking contaminated water, say Ogoni elders

Clean-up: We’re still drinking contaminated water, say Ogoni elders


ELDERS of Ogoniland have accused the Federal Government of failing to follow the recommendations of the United Nations Environment Programme on the clean-up of Ogoniland, lamenting that the people were still drinking contaminated water due to pollution.

The elders, who spoke under the aegis of the Ogoni Elders’ Forum, recalled that UNEP had directed that potable water be provided for the Ogoni people whose communities had been experiencing environmental degradation.

The Chairman of the forum, Senator Benett Birabii, told newsmen in Port Harcourt on Monday that the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Programme had gone ahead to award contracts without considering some of the recommendations of UNEP.

Birabii also condemned the planned militarisation of Ogoniland ostensibly to provide security services for the clean-up and remediation project.

He  noted that the best security that could ever be provided for any project anywhere was to involve the affected people in the implementation of such project.

Birabii said, “Based on credible information available to us that the current clean-up of Ogoniland is only, but a preliminary phase, intended to show that something is being done, we wonder why it (clean-up) is being prioritised over the emergency life-saving issue of provision of potable water.

“Ogoni communities are daily consuming water contaminated with benzene and other carcinogenic materials in concentration over 900 times above the acceptable maximum as stipulated in the WHO guidelines.

“UNEP had recommended that the provision of alternative safe drinking water to communities, among other measures be undertaken as a priority emergency measure before anything else.

“But our people are still condemned to drinking, bathing and fishing in heavily contaminated water. We wonder if the current exercise is not a classic case of putting the cart before the horse.”

Also, a former President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, Ledum Mitee, maintained that the funds that would be spent in drafting soldiers to Ogoniland could be expended on Ogoniland to also ensure security.

Mitee said, “The money they spend on soldiers can be spent on Ogoniland to ensure security. Once they succeed in doing what they are doing in a flawed manner; that is how it will be in other Niger Delta areas.”

Recall that the Federal Government had last week handed over some polluted sites in Ogoni to contractors mandated with the remediation process to mark the beginning of the clean-up.

The Minister of Environment, Suleiman Hassan, handed over the polluted site in Alode community to the Earthpro Group and another in Obolo-Ebubu community to Basic Nigeria Technology Limited in the Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State.

Hassan promised that the clean-up would restore the forest and water that had been destroyed as a result of the pollution in the area.

The minister promised that potable water would be provided for the people before the commencement of the exercise, adding that the handover marked the beginning of the end of Ogoni agitations and yearnings for a safer environment.

Hassan appealed to the youths to desist from oil bunkering and cooperate with the contractors in the clean-up. Punch


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