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Respond To Shell Allegation Of Non-Release Of Ogoni Remediation Funds

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ARTICLE BY LARA ADEJORO PUBLISHED 8 JULY 2014 BY THE DAILY TIMES OF NIGERIA 

The disclosure by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) that the Nigerian government was frustrating the release of funds for the implementation of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Assessment on Ogoniland has come as a rude shock and the Ogoni people demand an answer, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has said.

Augustine Igbuku, the Ogoni Restoration Project Manager for SPDC told the House of Representatives Committee on Environment that Shell was willing to contribute to the $1 billion Ogoni Restoration Fund but was being frustrated by the lack of government structure and a legal framework for the Hydrocarbon Restoration Project (HYPREP), the ad hoc intervention agency set up by the same government.

The Shell official also identified lack of work plan by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources for the proposed cleanup and the utilization of the funds as part of the delay.

But in a press release issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN said, “we find the Nigerian government’s laid-back attitude to the remediation exercise very sad and bewildering because while Shell tries to absolve itself from the current impasse it actually benefits from the Nigerian government inaction while the Ogoni environment and people suffer”.

ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Uyi Ojo said: “We strongly believe this is complicity. Is it not an irony that while the rest of the world clamors for global binding mechanisms to hold transnationals like Shell accountable for environmental atrocities, the Nigerian government is demonstrating its unwillingness to compel the same company to act in this frustration game being played out? This kind of foot-dragging and summersaults on an issue that bothers on the lives and livelihoods of the people of Ogoni is so worrisome”

Ojo explained that: “we lament this assertion and the level of complicity. While the blame game continues, it is environment and the Ogonis that suffer from this neglect. Like we had mentioned during the recent visit of the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Mrs. Lilianne Ploumen, during her visit to Port Harcourt on 16th June, 2014 we want Shell’s home government to compel the company and the Nigerian government to come up with feasible and realizable plan of action on the cleanup.”

“ERA/FoEN position clearly stated during Ploumen’s visit is that the communities are willing to engage positively with the polluter and the Nigerian government but they remain shut out in this game of rigmarole on the cleanup and remediation exercise proposed by UNEP which is expected to take 30 years to complete”

He reiterated ERA/FoEN demands which are:

• The Nigerian government should as a matter of urgent national importance set up the Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Authority to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the UNEP Assessment.

• The establishment of the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Restoration in Ogoniland to promote learning in other areas impacted by oil contamination in the Niger Delta and elsewhere in the world to run training courses in environmental monitoring and restoration and ultimately become a model for environmental restoration, attracting international attention.

• The Nigerian government should review all the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) enabling laws to make it the sole agency for handling all oil spill-related issues management including taking steps to ensure that oil spills does not occur, and when it does, proper remediation and environmental recovery is carried out and impacted communities and individuals adequately restituted. The funding structures of NOSDRA should be reviewed for effective discharge of its functions.

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