Jonathan urges Ogoni to co-operate with environmental impact assessorsNigeria
PRESIDENT Goodluck Ebele Jonathan said on Monday in Abuja that the main objective of the on-going assessment of the environmental impact of oil contamination in Ogoniland is to establish the level of pollution in the area and determine the best remedial actions.
After receiving an update on the assessment from the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), which is conducting the exercise at the request of the Federal Government, President Jonathan urged the people of Ogoniland to support and cooperate with those conducting the exercise as its outcome will help ameliorate the negative impact of oil contamination on their environment.
The President said the Federal Government will work with the Rivers State government and Ogoni leaders to overcome the security challenges in parts of Ogoniland, which are hindering the completion of the extensive assessment of the environmental and public health impacts of oil contamination in the area.
He thanked UNEP, the Shell Petroleum Development Company and members of the Ogoni Reconciliation Committee headed by Rev. Mathew Hassan Kukah for their roles in the assessment exercise, saying he looked forward to receiving the report.
UNEP Project Manager for the Assessment, Mr. Mike Cowing, had told the President that a team of over 100 Nigerian and foreign experts were currently engaged in the exercise which began last year.
He said the scientific assessment of collected samples began in the second quarter of this year and that UNEP could present a final report to the government early next year if the challenges its assessors were facing in the Gokana Local Council were removed.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has condemned the attack on Ogbunugbene community in Bayelsa State by the Joint Military Task Force on the Niger Delta (JTF), describing it as an affront, which may reopen the wounds caused by similar attacks on Gbaramatu, Okerenkoko and Oporoza and derail the Federal Government’s amnesty programme.
ERA/FoEN’s caution came on the heels of reports that the attack, at the weekend, was carried out by JTF personnel who came in gunboats stationed at Agip’s Ogboinbiri Flow Station close to the community.
A few days before the invasion, which left some people wounded and houses destroyed, an oil spill was reported at Agip’s facility in the community, following which some youths were mobilised to protect the site.
It was, however, gathered that the soldiers invaded the community and engaged youths in a shoot-out, which left some dead and others seriously injured. Houses were also destroyed, leading to exodus to safer communities.
ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey, said in a statement on Monday: “These soldiers are supposed to be responsible to the people of the Niger Delta and should protect lives and property and not hunt the people down”.
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