Hundreds of activists and civil society organisations (CSOs) on Wednesday barricaded the Federal Ministry of Environment in Abuja over the delay in the commencement of the Ogoniland oil spill cleanup.
The protesters, led by the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (Centre LSD) and the Catholic Organization for Relief and Development Aid (Cordaid), prevented the movement of motorists, especially cars from entering and exiting the ministry, Daily Trust reports.
The acting Executive Director of Centre LSD, Mr. Monday Osasah, decried the delay of action and lack of coordination by the Federal Government, over the cleanup despite the government’s political will and commitment with the flag-off of the cleanup on June 2, 2016.
“We also want to put on record the initiative of setting up HYPREP as a body and a project to oversee the cleanup process.
“While these steps are well intended, the near absence of complementary action to march these creations has become problematic and has put a knock on the euphoria that greeted the flag-off of the clean up by the government,” Osassah said.
He acknowledged that some preliminary work including scoping and delineation, advertisement and pre-qualification of 140 companies to carry out remediation, health impact studies and provision of potable water to some impacted Ogoni communities has been done in accordance with the procurement law of the nation.
He said despite the recent approval of the escrow account by the Vice President, the level of work after over two years of flag-off is not impressive saying the government is treating the issue with kid gloves at the expense of the health and livelihood of the people of the Niger Delta.
“The urgent need to address the environmental issues in the Niger Delta cannot be over emphasized. The reason arguably is not necessarily that the oil from the region constitutes the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, but because addressing the issues of the Niger Delta will help to address the broader Nigerian problems.
“Cleaning the Niger Delta is social justice, and having achieved relative calm so far, we believe that further tampering with citizen’s expectation by the lull and constant postponement of the cleanup might be problematic.
“The country went into recession a few years ago by a factor relating to the hostilities in the Niger Delta and pipeline vandalization.
“Therefore, anything that could bring a repeat or question the country’s recovery from recession must be avoided as much as possible,” he said.
They also demanded that the $180m realized from SHELL, NNPC and other stakeholders for the cleanup should immediately be utilized for the purpose without further delay.
He said, “The cleanup, we believe, aligns with the change agenda of the Buhari-led administration, which in the first instance provided the basis for throwing its weight behind it.
“The acceptation was a major game changer considering that this same issue was kept at the back seat by the two previous administrations in the country. Government must ensure it does not abandon its change agenda. Abandoning the cleanup is akin to abandoning the change agenda.”