Decry slow pace of cleanup exercise
Experts have canvassed sustainable means of livelihoods for Ogoni People in Rivers State, insisting that failure to do so five years after the commencement of the cleanup exercise, might worsen the plight of Ogoni people.
They also argued that a population of over one million people, whose major means of livelihood remain largely farming and fishing have lost their means of sustenance to pollution of the sea and land due to oil exploration for several decades.
Speaking at a virtual conference, Dr. Sam Kabari of the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development, said oil spills occasioned by oil bunkering, artisanal refining and un-serviced assets have become a daily occurrence in Ogoniland.
“There is massive loss of biodiversity and livelihoods. These are the immediate consequences of degradation of the environment and government response and cleanup of the polluted areas had been slow, ineffective and uncoordinated,” he said.
Lamenting that Ogoniland remained one of the most polluted Delta areas globally, he stated that the soot, exposure to high risk of cancer, loss of lives and low agricultural yields, among others had continued
He said there had been no emergency response to oil spills in communities, no formalised process for spills or gas leaks and that hardship had defined understanding of the remediation process in reality.
“So far, community perception of the cleanup of Ogoni is negative, because there is no visible sign of remediation in the area and nothing is happening because of politics and bureaucracy,” he said.
On issue of livelihoods in Ogoniland, Kabari maintained that wages from traditional livelihoods were inadequate, saying developing sustainable livelihoods could be impeded by political, economic, social and environmental factors.
Also, Executive Director of Kebetkache Women Development Centre, Emem Okon, said: “We conducted study on women’s livelihood needs assessment in Eleme, Gokana, Khana and Tai council areas to promote inclusion in decision making.
She added the group’s intervention was aimed at enhancing full participation of women in the implementation of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report and the Ogoni cleanup exercise.
“We’ve began implementation by establishing a relationship with women in Tai and followed up with training of 100 women on entrepreneurship in soap making and bee-keeping, among others.”
On his part, Lawal Amodu of the Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development, explained that the provision of potable water to Ogoni people was long overdue, adding that awarding the contract after five years of the commencement of the cleanup, was not heartwarming.
Amodu argued that the people had suffered untold for too long and could not afford delay, especially with the advent of COVID-19 pandemic, where the people have no clean water, saying: “It becomes problematic to use contaminated water during the pandemic.”