By Davies Iheamnachor
OGONI—CHAIR-MAN, Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers, Ogoni, Rivers State, HRM Mene Godwin-Gininwa, Gbene-Mene Tari, has commended the United Nations, UN, for excluding payment of compensation in its Report on Ogoni clean-up, saying it could have ignited a crisis with people killing themselves in the area.
The monarch stated this when he played host to the Remediation team of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, HYPREP, led by the Head, Project coordination, Dr. Marvin Dekil, which visited some communities in Eleme, Tai, Gokana and Khana local government areas to acquaint them of the activities of the body in the cleanup process.
Gininwa said: “One thing I enjoy is that there is no compensation, if there were, we would have killed ourselves. They tied it around projects; give our youths jobs because they will not come for any compensation.”
He urged HYPREP to ensure that it engaged youths, women and men of Ogoni to make up for the non-payment of compensation for destruction in the respective communities to avoid crisis in the execution of its project. His words: ”They should put in place machinery to fast track the work. Any bottleneck that is causing the delay should be untied. The Federal Government should make sure that Ogoni people benefit from the project. We will also support HYPREP to ensure that the project succeeds. HYREP should not disappoint Ogoni, I appeal that the Centre of Excellence is built in Tai local government area.”
The visit by the team to communities to sensitize the elders, chiefs, youth groups and women ahead the commencement of remediation of impacted sites has not been without drama, as the different communities lobbied for the siting of the Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Centre, ICSMC, and Center of Excellence, the two important infrastructures for the cleanup process in their particular jurisdictions.
Why FG picked Bori for ICSMC/Centre of Excellence
Speaking at the different sensitization venues in Bodo, K-dere/B-Dere, Ogale, Ebubu, Korokoro and Ueken during the sanitization, Dekil told Ogoni communities that the Integrate Contaminated Soil Management Centre, ICSMC, and Center of Excellence would be built at Bori, the traditional headquarters of Ogoni.
Dekil said the decision was to avoid conflict and war in Ogoni, stating that several communities had written to the Federal Ministry of Environment requesting that the ICSMC be built in their areas. He stated: “The Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Centre is in Bori to avoid conflict. The past Minister of Environment received different applications on the location of the centre, so she decided to site it in Bori. It is the decision of the government.
Health impact assessment
Dekil noted that HYPREP would conduct health impact assessment in Ogoni, promising that pipe borne water would also be given priority attention as recommended in the United Nations Environmental Programme, UNEP report. “We want to find out whether the sickness in Ogoni came as a result of the different oil spillages that the people have been exposed to.
“Provision of water is top most in our agenda now. Another aspect concerns health impact assessment, the health impact study will be done by the best hands in the medical field. We will bring international, national bodies and others to do this,” Dekil said.
He said: ”We are here to let you know that we are about to start. We are on the scientific stage. You will soon begin to see big equipment in preparation. The soil testing is important because soil will be treated there.”
Ogale jostlesfor ICSMC
The paramount ruler of Ogale in Eleme local government area, Chief Godwin Bebe Okpabe, had told Dekil: ”We have given the Federal Ministry of Environment land for the ICSMC, they did not use it. They told us that HYPREP will correct this, but you have not done it. The community is not pleased that the land we brought out for the ICSMC was abandoned.
“Engage our people in this project, you know what the oil giants do to us you know how they divide and rule us. They will come in and set fire so that the community will not benefit in their projects. You are our son; let’s not exhibit the attitude that will make us lose out from the benefits of the cleanup,” he said.
We don’t want disappointment— K-Dere
Elder Chief Emmanuel Nsah, the Vice Chairman of K-Dere Town Governing Council, cautioned: “We do not want disappointment in this project. If we see any disappointment, we will react. When it comes to oil exploration K-Dere will be remembered, in pollution, we are number one, but when it comes to appointments, we will not be remembered.
“In this community, we experience annual flooding and no electricity yet, we have 54 oil wells. We are not seeking to be number one in the scheme of things, but we need recognition. We want employment to be considered in this community from the apex to the least. If there is any compensation, we should be considered first or second,” he added.
Don’t abandon us— Ebubu community
Ebubu community demanded training of its youths, men and women for active participation in the cleanup. The community ruler and secretary, Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers, Chief Godwin Chiwi, said: ”We are sensitive and emotional to issues of Shell because we have been deeply affected. We are happy about your coming because the implementation is underway.”
He asserted: “If you are coming for testing, for the sake of security, always meet the community rulers. We will not take anything from you, but to save you from hoodlums. We are four communities closely knitted. When you are coming with goodies, do not branch anywhere else, come to us directly.
“When you want to recruit for training, get in touch with our traditional rulers. Make us have a sense of belonging. When you do your water project, we have old facility that has refused to work, check if it is useful. Please, you people should come to our aid, our people are already dying. Some, we do not even know what is causing it,” he stated.