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ThisDayOnline (Nigeria): UN, FG, Shell to Sign MoU on Ogoni Oil Fields

From Chika Amanze-Nwachuku in Lagos and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, 02.21.2007
 
The Federal Government appears set to record a major break-through in its effort to broker a peace deal between the Ogoni people and the Anglo-Dutch oil production giant, Shell through a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) to undertake the cleaning up of the environment damaged by oil exploration.

This is coming just as Shell Petroleum  stated that crude oil theft remains a key problem in the Niger Delta and raised concern over its effect on the economy and lives of people living in the area. The Royal Dutch company has however warned the perpetrators of the dastardly act to desist from it.

The government-appointed special mediator for the restoration of peace in the crisis-torn Niger Delta community, Rev. Fr. Matthew Kuka, said yesterday that government was in the process of reaching an agreement with the UN agency, Rivers State, Ogoni people and Shell which will bind everyone to the spirit and letter of the understanding.

“We approached the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and got the approval of the President to invite them for a deal on the matter,” he said. “Right now we are having a conversation with them and they are going to undertake environmental impact assessment and eventually carry out a clean-up exercise in the area”, he said.

Kuka who made the disclosure while delivering a lecture at the opening ceremony of the 43rd and 44th classes of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Chief Officer’s Management Development Programme, described the involvement of the UN agency as a big plus to the government in its effort to instill transparency in the affairs of the oil industry.

“The involvement of the UN is a big plus to the Federal Government and a big plus for transparency because they have been doing similar work in other parts of the world”.
However, Kuka said sooner than later, “the parties would be drawing up a memorandum of understanding which would hold the Federal Government of Nigeria, Rivers state government, Ogoni people, Shell and the UN legally bound to the fulfillment of the terms of
agreement on the matter”.  He said the task of securing a workable understanding
that would lead to the restoration of oil production activities in Ogoniland is a very delicate assignment, adding that the peace mission has covered quite a lot of ground.

He  said the President’s mandate to him to do everything possible to bring peace to Ogoniland made him decide to try and do something that would wipe away the bitterness of the past from the people’s mind.

According to him, one of the things he tried to do in the first few months of my assignment was to try to deal with the human issues which was outside my terms of engagement”, he said.  
“My assignment was to seek reconciliation and we have met quite a number of people and held discussion on issues and the climax of it all was going took place in May last year when we got the Ogonis to take a concrete step in tying up their position.  On what stage the reconciliatory efforts are now, the clergyman, said a lot of progress have been made” .

Meanwhile, in a statement last night by the Shell’s External Affairs Director, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, the oil giant disclosed that a joint investigation team, comprising the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), other government officials, community representatives, and SPDC officials is due to visit the area to investigate the incident.

The company, which stated that it has put out a fire that occurred at one of its wells at Egwa field in the Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State, however denied a media report of plans to embark on  mass sack of its staff.

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