It was good news for the people of Ogoniland in Rivers state of Nigeria when the federal government announced that it was going to implement the recommendations of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report following the devastation of their lands by oil spills. This was however coming after about five years of little or no concrete action.
On 2 June, 2016, Ogoniland was agog with expectation – The president was coming to their land to launch the clean-up of Ogoni. The people turned up in their numbers to see and hear from the president. Some hoped that perhaps this would get them on the road to correcting some of the perceived wrongs done to the Ogoni people.
The launch of the Ogoni clean-up took place at Sivibiragbara water front, popularly called Patrick’s Water front in Bodo community, Ogoni, Rivers State. The Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo represented the president, General Mohammadu Buhari In his addresses, he lamented on the “lack of concern for the environment which has resulted in the present things in the region.” He regretted that, “the people of t Ogoni have continued to suffer from the impacts of oil spills and the devastation” He enthused that the event marked the “laying of a solid foundation for the restoration of the land.” He implied that all must work together to succeed and admonished that, “regulators must live up to expectation.” Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, speaking for the president, reassured that government was “determined to put right the wrongs of the past.”
The launch of the Ogoni clean-up was attended by sons and daughters of Ogoni land with their friends, partners and stakeholders. Numerous dignitaries and members of the diplomatic community were also present to witness the launch. These include the Minister of Environment, Hajia Amina Mohammed, Rivers Governor Nyesom Wike, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi,, the Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside; the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, Governor of Imo State Owelle Rochas Okorocha, the Managing Director of SPDC, Osagie Okunbor and other very distinguished personalities. Civil society organizations were also present to witness the historic launch.
Immediately after the clean-up launch, some participants expressed their views. While some expressed optimism that perhaps the clean would indeed be implemented after 5 years of delay. Others were not too optimistic and expressed disappointment that “he (the president) delegated this particular duty to the vice president and could not come himself”. The various comments summarily asserts that Ogoni people are waiting for the actualization of clean-up in their land. One man even said he hoped to make a lot of money out of the situation. We await patiently to see the next step – but stress the importance of implementing an accountable executive committee to avoid distortion by the capricious interests of individuals.