From Tony John, Port Harcourt

Ogoni activist organisation Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) has expressed dissatisfaction with the slow pace of the Federal Government’s cleanup project of the polluted Ogoni environment.

MOSOP has also reiterated its commitment to non-violence, cautioning that its civil approach to activism should not be mistaken for weakness.

MOSOP President Prince Biira made the remarks in Port Harcourt on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the release of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) environmental assessment report on Ogoniland.

MOSOP lamented that 10 years after the UNEP assessment report, there has been no significant impact on the Ogoni people, complaining that the Nigerian Government has not demonstrated commitment to implementing recommended measures to ameliorate their hardships.

Biira said the Federal Government through its agency in Ogoni cleanup, the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), has not lived up to expectations and is incompetent to handle and oversee the remediation.

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He regretted that, on June 2, 2006, when the implementation of the UNEP report was officially flagged off, the Ogoni people had hoped and expected that the project would create succour to them.

‘But, over the years of implementation, the project is yet to meet the expectations of the people. Thus, spurring misgivings arising from frustration, which has put the people and HYPREP at loggerhead and rendered the exercise marked by blame and distrust. Hence, the project has had no recognisable impact,’ Biira expressed.

According to the MOSOP president, there has been an imbalance in the membership composition of the governing council of HYPREP, the politicisation of virtually everything relating to the agency, the poor release of funds for the cleanup project, poor monitoring and evaluation, failure to comply with UNEP recommendations, among other failures.

He charged the current leadership of HYPREP to match action with words, saying the Ogoni people are tired of ‘polluted promises’ that have remained in the files of the agency.

‘That HYPREP should provide clean and safe potable water to Ogoni communities within a reasonable time. We also demand that all Ogoni communities should benefit as against a selected few.

‘That livelihood should be provided with existing recommendations; the system should be depoliticised and only competent contractors should be contracted to handle the jobs,’ MOSOP demanded.