EMPOWERED NEWSWIRE, New York
In a move seen as a subtle diplomatic nudge to encourage the Nigerian government to commence indeed the full implementation of the United Nations recommendations on the oil contamination clean-up of Ogoniland, the world body has asked for the prompt mobilization of the needed funds, while offering its own assistance in the process.
Empowered Newswire reports a press release late on Wednesday from the UN, the Executive Director/Under-Secretary General of the United Nations Environmental Programme, UNEP, Mr. Achim Steiner declared that the agency "stands ready to assist the government and its agencies with expertise for getting the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project up and running so as to improve the lives and livelihoods of the Ogoni people."
Altogether, the UN report entitled UNEP Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland had proposed an initial sum of US$1 billion to cover the first five years of clean-up operations, and the UN also made some financing proposals. But recently the Nigerian federal government indicated that it will now define the scope, actions and financing of the project.
Recalling the recent announcement of the Nigerian government to commence what it called the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project for the clean-up exercise, Steiner noted that the federal government's decision to take up the challenge is coming about one year after the UNEP released its much talked about Ogoniland assessment.
Calling the FG decision, "clear and encouraging," the UN official added the signals from Nigeria is that "the government is keen to move on the recommendations-this is a welcome development for the people and the environment of this region who have suffered, and continue to suffer, the legacy of some 50 years of unsustainable oil exploration and production."
The UN press release disclosed that in the past recent weeks, "UNEP has held discussions with Sir Peter Idabor, the Director-General of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and is engaged with the government to chart transformative pathways forward in order to realize the assessment's recommendations."
Another official of the UNEP report to the Nigerian government last year August, Ibrahim Thiaw, the director of UNEP's Division of Environmental Policy Implementation added that "the immediate need is for the necessary funds to be mobilized and to be deployed to take the Project forward at a scale and speed commensurate with the challenge."
Continuing Thiaw added however that it is not only the federal government that would be involved, saying "everyone has a part to play in realizing significant and positive results from the Government of Nigeria, local authorities and the oil industry to NGOs and local communities."
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) welcomed the federal government's decision to proceed with a major oil contamination clean-up of Ogoniland in the Niger Delta, recalling that 12 months ago it presented its "scientific assessment of oil pollution in Ogoniland to Nigerian President,... underlining serious public health and environmental impacts."
The UNEP report then called for swift action "to prevent the pollution footprint from spreading further and exacerbating the already tragic legacy for the Ogoni people."
UNEP noted that "while some on-the-ground results could be immediate, overall the report estimated that countering and cleaning up the pollution and catalyzing a sustainable recovery of Ogoniland could take 25 to 30 years and will require long term financing."
The independent scientific assessment, coordinated by UNEP and carried out over a 14-month period, had revealed far greater and deeper pollution than previously thought after an agency team examined more than 200 locations, surveyed 122 kilometres of pipeline rights of way, analyzed 4,000 soil and water samples, reviewed more than 5,000 medical records and engaged over 23,000 people at local community meetings, UNEP explained.
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.
In one community, at Nisisioken Ogale, in western Ogoniland, the report found that families were drinking water from wells that was contaminated with benzene - a known carcinogen - at levels over 900 times above World Health Organization guidelines.
Commending the Rivers State Government, UNEP said the state has "introduced alternate water supplies to the affected communities at Nisisioken Ogale, immediately following the release of UNEP's report, with trucks delivering safe drinking water."
Since handing over its report, UNEP has signaled its willingness to be a partner in the environmental restoration of Ogoniland and its surrounding creeks, in conjunction with the government, the oil industry and the traditional rulers and people of Ogoniland, the release restated