The effects on the water of an oil spill which occurred in mid 2007, near the community of Goi, Ogoniland, Nigeria, photo taken 28 January 2008.

By Our Reporter

Experts and discussants in the just concluded Correspondents’ Chapel Week of Rivers State Union of Journalists have warned that the rate of pollution in the oil producing communities in Ogoniland in particular and Niger Delta in general, is a potential time bomb and threat to national security.

This warning is sequel to the critical perusal of the report of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and assessment of the ongoing  Ogoni Clean-Up as well as the inherent dangers of allowing pollution and its after effects to persist in the region.

The Communique endorsed by Chief Ernest Chinwo, Chairman of the Correspondents’ Chapel and Ignatius Chukwu, Chairman, Press Week Committee, issued at the end of press week Symposium with the theme: “Assessing Stakeholders’ Compliance in Ogoni Clean-Up” emphasized the need to ensure national security; including security of lives and property and food security (our environment must be safe.)

It was also pointed out that despite the hype by government and stakeholders; the issue of Ogoni Clean-Up has continued to drag so slowly that it has created the perception of motion without movement.

Participants held that for the UNEP Report and consequent Ogoni Clean-Up to have enduring result, remediation must be followed with confirmation and monitoring to prevent further degradation.

The discussants also held that since the underpinnings of Ogoni struggle have been environmental injustice, remediation without compensation still harbours injustice; and this seems to make the scheme a hard sale to the Ogoni community.

“There was therefore a demand for the Federal Government to address the underpinning desire for compensation because cleaning brings environmental remediation but does not address the aspect of human loss over the years.”

Discussants clearly pointed out funds are not the problem of the Clean Up, but stifling bureaucratic processes that make nonsense of procurement needs,  thus working against the expectations of the impacted communities. There was a call to grant waivers so that action can move faster without compromising transparency.

It was also observed that the agency responsible for the Clean Up, HYPREP, has not been able to communicate the processes to the communities and the press effectively, thus creating impression that the clean up was a fraud or political. There were therefore calls for improvement of communication to sell the exercise.

Participants commended members of the Press for standing with the Ogoni community over the decades especially since the late Ken Saro-Wiwa broadened the awareness of the Ogoni on the environmental degradation of their land, but urged the Press to do more on the issue concerning the Niger Delta region. The Press was urged to deploy more resources in monitoring the clean up processes.

They observed that even as UNEP Report was not enough for the solution of the environmental degradation of Ogoni due to perceived influence of multinational oil corporations on the team, the Report at least validated the claims by the Ogoni of monumental degradation of their environment.

The participants averred that it is difficult for journalists to go into Ogoniland to do independent and investigative report due to the security situation in the enclave.

”It was painfully admitted that pollution has become the biggest threat to the clean up exercise with fears that more pollution sites must have emerged than the UNEP Report identified. The participants called on the FG to persuade the security agencies to do what is necessary to stop pipeline vandalism and not leave it to unarmed communities.”

The participants commended the Correspondents’ Chapel of the NUJ for such a successful Symposium and urged them to sustain the watch on the environment and the Ogoni Clean Up.