PRESIDENT of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Legbosi Pyagbara, has vowed that Ogoni people will continue to resist oil production in the area until the Federal Government fully implements all the recommendations of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoniland to clean up the area.
Pyagbara, spoke who at the weekend in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, accused the Federal Government of paying lip service to the cleaning of Ogoni environment.
He said if government was responsive to the plight of her citizens, Ogoni should have been declared a national disaster area.
According to him, Ogoni people cannot fathom why after the $9.5 million UNEP independent scientific assessment report, which revealed that at Nisisioken Ogale-Eleme, families have been drinking water from wells contaminated with benzene, a known carcinogen at levels over 900 times above World Health Organisation guidelines, government has remained indifferent to the UNEP recommendations.
Detailed soil and groundwater contamination investigations were conducted at 69 sites, which range in size from 1,300 square metres (Barabeedom-K.dere, Gokana local government area (LGA) to 79 hectares (Ajeokpori-Akpajo, Eleme LGA) by UNEP. Altogether, more than 4,000 samples were analyzed, including water taken from 142 groundwater monitoring wells drilled specifically for the study and soil extracted from 780 boreholes.
Some of the United Nations team’s findings revealed that there are at least 10 Ogoni communities where drinking water is contaminated with high levels of hydrocarbon.
Pyagbara said Ogoni people will continue to resist an attempt by the Federal Government and any oil company to resume oil production in the area. He stressed that although Ogoni people are not opposed to oil production, government must adhere to UNEP recommendations, which prohibits oil production without a thorough initial clean-up of the environment.
“Ogoni people have not said we don’t want resumption of oil production. Ogoni people raised certain issues in 1990 and these issues have not been addressed. We cannot accept resumption of oil production so long as the issue of Ogoni clean-up has not been resolved,” he said.
Pyagbara described the creation of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) as a major distraction because it is a contravention of UNEP’s recommendation for the establishment of an Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Authority that would oversee implementation of the study’s recommendations.
He explained that Ogoni people would continue to push for autonomy within the Nigeria federation. This autonomy, which is included in the Ogoni Bill of Rights, according to him, should not be misconstrued as a move to secede, insisting that it is a desire of the people to control their affairs.
He advised the Rivers State government to engage Ogoni in meaningful dialogue and desist from its land grabbing attitude.
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