A group of Nigerian non-state actors working on good governance has called on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency end environmental degradation and fast-tract total clean-up of polluted communities in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.
The group made this call at a National Summit on the ‘Niger Delta Clean-up organised by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in Abuja.
Giving his opening remarks at the Summit, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), Executive Director of CISLAC, said the effects and impact of environmental degradation constituted nothing but evident violation of human rights and major impediment to the development of the region.
The Executive Director bemoaned deliberate institutional bureaucracy slowing down the implementation of Ogoni clean-up project launched by the Federal Government since 2015, calling for inclusive process and participation of the concerned communities in the clean-up exercise.
He said: “More than a year after the federal government launched the implementation of the Ogoni clean-up project, not much has been done to inspire anyone, not least the affected communities.
“The project is weighed down by all kinds of silly excuses and institutional bureaucracy, but all boiling down to lack of commitment by the government.”
“Not much has happened in the past one year as the hopes again seemed misplaced. Perhaps the only thing of value is that the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) has called for the expression of interest from members of the public to pre-qualify for implementation of some aspects of the clean-up exercise.
“In a number of locations, public health is greatly threatened by polluted drinking water and carcinogens. Delta ecosystems like mangroves were also destroyed. It also found that institutional control measures put in place both in the oil industry and government were not adequately implemented,” CISLAC’s boss added.
Also, Prof. Daniel Omoweh, Dean, College of Social and Management Sciences, Western Delta University, Oghara, Delta State, explained that the key oil-producing areas in the Niger Delta are predominantly located in the swampy mangrove forests, exacerbating pollution of fresh water, environmental degradation, and extinction of sea lions and species of fishes in the region.
The university don urged strengthened judicial process to ensure justice for the concerned communities and prompt democratization of governance of natural resources, giving cognisance to oil and gas sector.
He encouraged non-states actors on inclusive community engagement to validate fact-findings on the cases of oil spillage.
“NGOs should sustain the campaign and activism on the democratization of the governance of the environment and demand to expunge the anti-people 1978 Land Use Decree as amended in 2011, from the Constitution of the Federal Republic.
“The key non-governmental organizations should engage the rural farmers and other related associations to report cases of oil spillage cases by the oil companies.
“The Judiciary should be strengthened to punish any operator in the oil and gas sector destroying and posing dangers to a sustainable environment.
“There is the need for penal code that will punish all those willfully destroying the environment, namely, the state, represented by the NNPC, the oil companies, the illegal bunkers and operators of the artisanal refineries,” Prof. Omoweh demanded.