The member representing Rivers South East Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Senator Magnus Abe, said on Thursday that no meaningful clean-up exercise could take place in Ogoni land at the moment due to serious security challenges in the oil-rich area.
Abe, who is also the Chairman, Senate Committee on the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency, stated this while addressing journalists shortly after his bill on the establishment of the University of Environment, Science and Agriculture, Ogoni land, scaled second reading in the senate.
He said despite the award of contracts to the contractors that would carry out the clean-up, the exercise would be stalled due to the unabated security challenges currently ongoing in the area.
He said, “I am aware that contracts for the clean-up of Ogoni land have been awarded. Right now as we speak, the security situation in the area does not provide for a meaningful economic or even contractual activity to go on.
“As we speak now, every day, at least six people are killed in one community or the other. There is no day that they are not killing people.
“Many residents of the various communities have abandoned their homes and ran away due to violence. So, in that kind of atmosphere, it will be difficult for me to say there is any contractor somewhere in the bush alone, working.
“I don’t think that is possible at this time but I know that contracts have been awarded and I believe that it is our responsibility as a nation to address these security issues so that real development can take place.
“Any clean-up that goes on without first addressing the issue of the continued pollution of the environment is a waste of everybody’s money because as the clean-up is going on, the criminals will be spoiling the exercise.
“Addressing the security issues in Ogoni land is foundational to the success of the clean-up.”
Abe noted that the contracts were probably awarded following pressures from people who want to see the clean-up exercise going on since contracts had been awarded.
On the reasons for the establishment of the university, the senator said he took the advantage of a provision in the United Nations Environment Programme report for the clean-up of Ogoni land, to propose the bill.
He said, “There is a provision for a centre of excellence in the UNEP report. All the functions that the centre of excellence is supposed to perform are essentially what a university does.
UNEP is an agency of the United Nations that coordinates the organisation’s environmental activities and assists developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices.
Abe argued that if all the money was spent to establishing a centre that would not provide certification and would not have any means of sustenance after the clean-up, such funds will essentially be a waste.
He said, “So the university would help us to build a lasting legacy for this entire process, as well as provide a permanent investment for the people of this country, and help to create the needed manpower and institutional support for the clean-up, not just for Ogoni, but indeed, all impacted areas across the world.
“Converting that centre into a university will serve the purposes of the people of this country better. The bill is a historical and institutional necessity as far as this country is concerned.”
The bill was read for the first time in the chamber on Thursday 12 June, 2018.
Senate President Bukola Saraki, asked the Senate committee on tertiary education to work on the bill and report to the chamber in two weeks.
Source: The Punch