Ogoni Land And The Jonathan Roadshow?

By Ifeanyi Izeze

Agreed that some groups may be frustrating President Goodluck Jonathan’s efforts at addressing the mammoth problems confronting this country, the president himself and the people around him have not shown enough creativity in seizing opportunities that crop up every day to show they are actually serious to make significant inroads in governance.

Is it not funny that it took the Federal Government almost one year to wake up its ideas as it announced the formation of a Hydro-Carbon Pollution and Restoration Project (HYPREP) to implement recommendations of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoni? So without the declaration or rather threat of self-government by the Ogoni people, Government would have continued its sleep on the heinous issue of criminal neglect and environmental devastation of the area? In Warri parlance: bros Jona too slack!
While nobody in Ogoni is opposed to a genuine remediation of the oil spill-devastated area, the timing of the establishment of HYPREP to coincide with the first anniversary of the release of the UNEP report was nothing but an attempt to up-stage an avalanche of popular protests that the anniversary would sure elicit in view of government’s inaction for a whole year. Truth be told, Government’s recent announcement does not reflect any sincere interest in effecting proper clean-up because a very close look at the mandate, as announced, attests that it was nothing but mere political gimmick and a not-very-smart move to feign activity when there is none.

No doubt, many Nigerians would believe the Ogoni Civil Society Platform (OCSP) Statement in Port Harcourt that,“HYPREP, from available indications, seem designed to achieve some secret motives, which may undermine the survival and security of the Ogoni people.” How could a responsible government set up a peace-building and reconciliation project initiative without consultation with the very people concerned? Also, government announced a very capital intensive remediation project/initiative and did not say who was going to fund it and how? How can you announce a programme/project without specific terms of reference and implementation plan? It all shows that the initiative was hurriedly packaged as a damage control measure.

Since all government activities (projects) are usually budgeted for, how is HYPREP going to effectively function when it is not accommodated in the 2012 National Appropriation Act? So you see government’s deceit and unseriousness?

It is really pathetic that the UNEP findings which ought to have aroused government sensitivity and sympathy for the area and its people were ignored until a dissident group called for self-government. The federal government would have cashed-in on the opportunity provided by the report to convince the people of the area that there is no conspiracy, as perceived, against them. But that chance was blown and anything government does now will be interpreted to be because of the existing threat of self-government by some people in the area.Who advised President Jonathan to jettison the genuine advises of UNEP relating to implementation of its recommendations for a new conscription-HYPREP? We need to establish this as it seems possible that whoever gave that advice was could have been moved to create more trouble in Ogoni and making sure the area is perpetually in crisis.

Before the federal government came up with its HYPREP, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) the Anglo-Dutch oil concern at the centre of the entire Ogoni crisis awarded new clean-up and remediation contracts to local contractors who are currently on sites at Kegbara Dere, Kpor and other communities in Ogoni. So how is the Federal Government’s HYPREP going to work in the same area on same remediation activities?

Is this not outright confusion which may ultimately lead to failure of both groups to achieve any meanwhile milestone in real terms? Except they are coming from the same office and getting instructions from one source, the HYPREP and Shell contractors are sure to cross each other. Conflict of interests between them would obviously manifest to work against any effort at achieving the intended goals, Each  side at the end will turn around to blame the other for failure to achieve anything and thereby leaving the Ogoni environment and the people where they were. The suspicion as expressed by those who should know is that HYPREP is coming to adopt these Shell contractors’ cover-up sites as repaired sites to prepare their final report for the Presidency on Ogoni remediation.

Although we know the federal government is in slick alliance with the transnational oil corporation, if it is serious on appeasing the Ogonis to allow for peaceful resumption of oil production in the area, it must show uncompromised transparency so that the Project would not be believed to have been formed to achieve a pre-determined outcome influenced by Shell. It’s well known fact that the Ogoni perception is that any initiative from Shell would always turn out to be detrimental to the interest of people of the area. And to prove otherwise, government must build confidence with the communities and the different segment of the Ogoni society.

The federal government should explain how HYPREP would be funded especially between now and the end of the year since it is not covered by the 2012 National Appropriation Act. It should as well indicate the specific vote for the implementation of recommendations of the UNEP report on Ogoni. Above all, publish the implementation plan including time frame, monitoring and evaluation programme ever before thinking of commencing any field operation to avert fresh hostilities from Ogoni communities.

The Ogonis on their part should also help themselves in their case against the federal government and Shell by learning to speak with one voice as a people. The situation where all sorts of groups speak for Ogoni and most times with discordant tunes portrays a people that are merely unappeasable and ungovernable. As it stands today, it is very difficult to even know how many factions of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) and its youth wing that exist both at home and abroad. Every Ogoni man who can speak English language wants to be or rather assumes himself to be the authentic MOSOP or NYCOP president. This is becoming irritating or more aptly vexing.

How long would the Ogonis continue to blame external influences for the unholy cracks in their relationships with each other? If actually they have established that Shell and government (Rivers state and federal) are making sure they don’t come together as one people with one voice, is it not expected of them to have been wiser in dealing with each other rather work against each other and blame external forces?

And surprisingly, with all the Ogoni-freak Movements and Associations, illegal bunkering has continued unabated in scopes unimaginable to the outside world. Why are these Ogoni activists looking the other way while abandoned oil facilities in the area are balkanized for bunkering purposes and illegal refining with its attendant environmental devastation which is even worse than what Shell actually did in parts of Ogoni. This has to be addressed. Ogoni has more illegal refineries than any other axis in Rivers state and if this assertion is wrong, somebody should correct it.

Ifeanyi Izeze can be reached on: iizeze@yahoo.com; 234-8033043009)

Publish Date: 

Wednesday, 22 August 2012