The Minister of Environment, Suleiman Hassan Zarma, said in Port Harcourt yesterday that the federal government had commenced the handing over of sites to contractors for the commencement of the Ogoni clean-up exercise.
Zarma, who disclosed this during a courtesy visit to Governor Nyesom Wike at Government House Port Harcourt, assured that the ministry was working with the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) to ensure that the cleanup is carried out.
He said: “We are here to set the tone to enable the foundation laying of a roburst intergovernmental collaboration which you have been doing, especially in the environmental sector.”
Governor Wike decried what he described as the deliberate neglect of the Niger Delta despite the fact the region is suffering environmental hardship for keeping the country afloat. He said environmental degradation caused by oil exploration was worse than insurgency.
He said: “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?”
He urged the federal government to withdraw funds from the Excess Crude Account to address the environmental challenges in Ogoni land in same manner that funds were withdrawn to tackle insurgency.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 $500 million from the Excess Crude Accounts for the Ogoni Clean-up Exercise,” he said as he expressed regret that the exercise had been politicised. He noted that the ministry was handing over sites to contractors three years after Vice President Yemi Osinbajo flagged off the exercise.