The inauguration of a committee for the implementation of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoniland is a welcome development but with the Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke in the driver?s seat, Shell has obviously hijacked the process, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has alerted.
Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, who inaugurated the Committee, said the move is part of government?s efforts to seek an enduring solution to the issue.
The 14-member Committee is to propose a focused engagement and implementation plan with clearly defined steps and is also mandated to advise the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) Advisory Council on the manner in which assets and funds of the project may be held and utilised.
But ERA/FoEN in a statement issued in Lagos said that the minister?s involvement in the process and the inclusion of HYPREP in the exercise clearly makes a mockery of the demands of the Ogoni and civil society groups as clearly spelt out in the UNEP report.
ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Ojo said: ?We strongly affirm that Shell has hijacked this process through the minister of petroleum. The involvement of the same minister who has left out vocal groups that have demanded that Shell be made to take full responsibility of the Ogoni pollution which can best be categorized as ecocide.”
Ojo pointed out that, ?We have said it time and again that HYPREP being an administrative unit under the petroleum ministry has no role in the clean up of Ogoniland. Rather, an independent third party should be responsible for the management of such clean up funds through the Federal Ministry of Environment in conjunction with the National Oil Spills Detection and Remediation Agency (NOSDRA) which has the statutory oversight function on oil spills clean up and remediation.
?Given the antecedent of Shell in often declaring spill sites as cleaned up throughout the Niger Delta the firm has lost complete trust with the people and civil society groups and thus cannot be trusted to tell the truth.
?We reiterate that while we applaud the Federal Government for bowing to local and international pressure to implement recommendations of the UNEP report, the process that the minister of petroleum has unveiled is totally unacceptable. Our recommendations have not changed. Shell should have no role in the clean-up process beyond the polluter pays principle,? Ojo insisted.

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