The Minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, last Friday, visited some clean-up sites in Ogoniland in Rivers State, and apparently expressed mixed feelings over the project, with a firm promise to visit the sites from time to time to ensure that the remediation work is delivered in accordance with the recommendations of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The minister, who was led to the sites by the Project Coordinator of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), Dr. Marvin Dekil, and his management team, among other personalities, said the clean-up project was actually making progress, as it has moved from the realm of mirage to reality and actuality, but appealed to the Ogoni people to be patient, even as they support the project to succeed.
Abubakar, who visited Lots 18 and 19 in KoroKoro Tai Community in Tai Local Government Area, Lot 2 in Ebubu Obolo Community, all in Eleme Local Government Area, said he was not going to condemn anybody or contractor yet, as he would continue with the inspection visits to the sites as well as monitor events as they unfold.
While the minister was visibly impressed with the ongoing clean-up exercise at Lots 2 and 8, he was visibly disappointed with the pace of work at Lots 18 and 19 in KoroKoro Tai Community.
This is particularly against the backdrop of the complaint made by the Gbenemene Tai and President of the Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers, King Godwin Giniwa, who alleged during a courtesy visit at his palace that his people were not being carried along in the clean-up exercise, particularly by the contractors executing the project, and stressed the need for the local people to be empowered by HYPREP.
The minister, in response, promised to look into the concerns expressed by the monarch.
While briefing the minister on the activities of HYPREP, Dr. Dekil said the process of providing potable water to inhabitants of some communities would soon be concluded, as the project was working in conjunction with the Rivers State Government in that regard, adding that it was also planning to construct a post-training facility for the people of the area.
The Project Coordinator further disclosed that sensitisation was ongoing in the four Ogoni-speaking local government areas for the training of 1,200 women in acqua culture, fish farming, poultry and other ventures, with 400 of them to be involved in the first phase of the programme, as a way of providing livelihoods for them.
The Tide’s investigation, however, revealed that the main contractors handling the clean-up project in KoroKoro Tai Community are either not on ground or have completely alienated themselves from the local people.
Some stakeholders accused them of greed, selfishness and outright wickedness.
The minister also visited a highly oil spill impacted site in B-Dere Community in Gokana Local Government Area, where he was confronted with the stark reality of the massive environmental degradation of Ogoniland. Plans are underway for 36 additional contractors to be mobilised to undertake the remediation of complex sites in the area.
Ogoni Clean-Up: MOSOP Decries Slow Pace Of Work
The Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), has warned of another round of crisis in Ogoniland, if the Federal Government does not fast-track the cleanup process.
President of MOSOP, Legborsi Pyagbara who dropped the warning at the just concluded 24th Ogoni Martyrs Day celebration in Port Harcourt described the pace of the clean-up process as frustrating.
Pyagbara who also described the environmental crisis in Ogoniland as a huge humanitarian disaster said the slow nature of the exercise is not a reflective of the humanitarian response.
“The slow nature of the current efforts are not reflective of a humanitarian response and is becoming for more frustrating and have the capacity to ignite a new round of conflict in Ogoniland if nothing is done immediately.
The MOSOP president also reminded the Federal Government that Ken Saro-Wiwa and to other Ogoni martyrs laid down their lives because of the environmental pollution of Ogoniland.
According to him, “while MOSOP appreciates the efforts of the government to end the environmental nightmare in Ogoni, the intervention approach must be seen from the perspective of a humanitarian response to a dying community which would require that administrative structures and bottlenecks be removed to speed up actions and activities.
“Judged against other humanitarian interventions going on in the country such as the North-East intervention in which new houses and infrastructures are springing up on a daily basis without noise-making and publicity stunts associated with the Ogoni intervention, we fear that the manacles and vestiges of discrimination for which these heros laid down their lives are still with us” he said.
Also speaking, the representatives of Hydrocarbon Pollution, Remediation Project (HYPREP) at the occasion, Isa Wasa, said HYPREP is determined to fulfill the key demand of the Ogonis which is environmental cleanup.
Isa Wasa who represented Marvin Dekil, HYPREP coordinator at the event said 39 Ogoni youths are being trained in Health Safety and Environment, while Ogoni scientists have been flown to Geneva for further training in environmental remediation.
He said the commission is engaging various stakeholders in Ogoniland with a view to providing potable drinking water to Ogoni communities.
Group Partners Rivers Varsity On Climate Conservation
A Non Government Organization, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) says it will partner the Rivers State University (RSU), Port Harcourt on Youths Development.
To this end, one-day seminar and summit tagged “National Climate Action Youth Dialogue” was held at the university with the theme: Unlocking Youth-Driven Climate Action in Nigeria” which targeted at the youths especially, secondary schools was aimed at enlightening them on how to conserve protect the climate and environment at large.
Speaking at the occasion, ,the Chairman,Rivers State Assembly House Committee on Education Hon. Ahiakwo Christian reminded the students whom he described as ‘the young ambassadors and protectors” of the environment on how important it is to maintain a conducive and provide clean and healthy environment for all to live
Hon. Ahiakwo who was House Committee chairman on Environment in the Rivers State House of Assembly thanked the organizers for the summit and described it as first of its kind
The lawmaker further explained that most of the abuses evident in our environments affect our climate negatively, such as burning of papers, oil flaring, burning of large amounts of refuse, condemned tyres, rubbers, adding that such acts weaken the ozone layers (O3) which protects the earth from direct sun- light.
He said our climate and environment could be protected by planting of trees, like Ethiopia where the youths planted over 350millions trees; a recycling process,, and burying of materials that can decay and become manure.
Stakeholders Bemoan Challenges Of Handwashing Practices
Stakeholders in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Sector have bemoaned the challenges of hand washing practices with soap in the country.
Mr Emmanuel Awe, the Director, Water Quality Control and Sanitation in the Ministry of Water Resources said this while declaring open the Nigeria Handwashing Roundtable meeting on Wednesday in Abuja.
The meeting was organised by the National Task Group on Sanitation (NTGS) with support of the Global Handwashing Partnership and Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC).
The meeting was aimed at reviewing the challenges and how to effectively create awareness on the practice of hand washing with soap.
“In the WASH sector, sanitation is often seen as the orphan, receiving little attention and funding.
“But much more so is hygiene, which is indicated under the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) six as availability of hand washing facilities with soap and water.
“Hand washing with soap is considered as an affordable, accessible “do-it-yourself” vaccine for sanitation and hygiene related diseases like diarrhea, cholera, typhoid fever among others that are prevalent in our communities.
“It is estimated to cut death from diarrhea by almost half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by a quarter. It also helps to ensure the sustenance of effort to end Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) which are endemic in some communities,” he said.
Awe said in Nigeria, about 100,000 children under the age of five die annually due to diseases caused by poor sanitation and unhygienic practices, which about 33 per cent of the children are stunted, limiting their mental development.
The director said according to the 2018, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASHNORM) Report, national access to basic hygiene services was 21 per cent with an estimated 150 million people lacking access.
“In schools and health care facilities, access to basic hygiene is 28 per cent and 40 per cent respectively, while only five per cent of public places such as markets and parks have hygiene facilities.
“The absence of WASH facilities, including hand washing stations in schools, healthcare facilities and workplaces are equity issues for girls and women, particularly for menstrual hygiene management.
“The availability of hand washing stations can stop the spread of diseases in these setting. It must be noted that the benefits accruable through provision of these facilities depends on the utilisation.
“Behaviour change is required for people to wash their hands consistently at key times,” Awe said.
Mrs Chizoma Opara, the Acting Coordinator Clean Nigeria, said that the ‘Clean Nigeria:Use the Toilet’ campaign under the National Programme was aimed at ending open defecation by 2025.
Opara said that the campaign would be officially launched on Nov. 19 by President Muhammadu Buhari to improve sanitation services in the country.
“The campaign will have integral component, hygiene promotion with emphasis on hand washing at critical times to break oral-route diseases transmission.’’
Mr Ron Clemmer, the Global Handwashing Partnership, Washington, U.S., said that hand washing was critical all the time in households, schools, healthcare, workplaces and emergency situations.
Clemmer noted that only 19 per cent of the world’s population particularly wash their hands with soap after contact with feaces.
He noted that only 20 per cent of people wash hands before preparing food, while only 31 per cent of health workers practices proper hand hygiene at critical time.
He said “findings shows that lack of hand washing with soap is a global risk present in all regions and it is a reminder that this nexus of risk is relevant to all countries, not just the poorest.’’
Mrs Elizabeth Warmera, a representative of Water Supply, Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) Office, Geneva, Switzerland said that the SDG six for Water and Sanitation, hand washing with soap was an essential factor.
She said this contributed to other SDGs on zero hunger, child survival, nutrition, good health, among others.
“This has the power to improve access to education for children, protect the health of patients and reduce inequalities which cuts across other goals,” she said.
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