By Somtochukwu Okonkwo
The Executive Director of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Barrister Chima Williams has urged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to ensure the accelerated clean-up of Ogoniland as the starting point of his policies in the environment. He also wants the current administration to remove bureaucratic bottlenecks to the clean-up.
Barrister Chima Williams made the demand at a press briefing with journalists today in Benin, the Edo State capital while speaking on the theme: STILL MIXED MESSAGES ON THE ENVIRONMENTAL FRONT!
The briefing touched on different issues including the divestment plans of International Oil Companies (IOCs) in the Niger Delta, the Ministry of Gas Resources, Marine and Blue Economy, Burning of Stolen Crude and Fuel subsidy removal among others.
On the divestment of IOCs, he said that over six decades of oil exploration in the Niger Delta region has left the region degraded, with frequent oil spills and gas flaring with grave impacts on man and the environment.
He pointed out that these hazards continue to shorten the lifespan of the people of the region even as he stressed that the oil companies have been engaging in half-truths as their model of divestment is to quit onshore oil fields and move further offshore and away from communities where their exploration fallouts will not be easily noticed.
To address the situation, he urged the current administration to ensure that for the companies divesting and those investing as domestic oil companies for nationals; government should design an Environmental Remediation Bond, put money into it and set up a structure to manage the bond, with representations from government agencies, investing and divesting companies, host communities, civil society, with a constituted management committee to manage the bond.
According to him, “If there is any mishap, the government will not wait for the oil companies or budget approval but would be fixed through the bond. And in that case, there would be swift responses to issues”.
On the Ministry of Gas Resources, Marine and Blue Economy, he said that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s August 21, 2023, announcement on the subject is a novel development in the history of Nigeria but insisted that it is one that will further pollute Nigeria’s waters and impact negatively on ocean resources and on the livelihoods of coastline communities.
Further, he stressed that while the Niger Delta has become epicentre of pollution in Nigeria, the new ministries are set to escalate the situation.
He also took a swipe at the government for the late appointment of Minister of Environment, Dr Ishak Salako and insisted that the development indicates that the environment takes backstage in the present dispensation.