Two-day stakeholder meetings held in Geneva on 24-25 November 2014 have carved a clear path forward for the implementation of environmental remediation measures proposed by UNEP in the Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland. Convened by Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum Resources, and facilitated by UNEP, the meetings mark a pivotal moment for the large-scale clean-up of Ogoniland.
Technical working groups tackled tough issues related to local livelihoods, fund management, procurement, community engagement as well as technical aspects of the required environmental remediation that have hindered progress to date.
First released in August 2011, UNEP’s Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland was one of the most comprehensive assessments of its kind undertaken in the Niger Delta. The study found that oil contamination in Ogoniland is extensive, with pollution penetrating further and deeper than previously thought.
In addition to enacting emergency measures to combat immediate harm to communities from the pollution of drinking water, the report called for an initial funding of US$1 billion to implement an environmental clean-up in Ogoniland. At the time of release, UNEP noted that the environmental restoration of Ogoniland could prove to be the world’s most wide-ranging and long-term oil clean up exercise ever undertaken.
Today, the Geneva meetings have brought new momentum to the restoration efforts for Ogoniland. Open, inclusive and transparent, this process has ensured that the voices of the Ogoni people, as well as the Government of Nigeria and oil companies, have been heard. A 16 member Ogoni delegation, including Mr. Legborsi Saro Pyagbara, president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, participated in the meetings in Geneva.
In addition to UNEP, the UN Development Programme, the UN Office for Project Services, and the UN Institute for Training and Research were also present, offering technical advice and reassurances that the UN system is ready to support this vital clean-up project.
The atmosphere leaving the meetings was positive, constructive, and participants expressed a real sense of urgency to kickstart the clean-up process. Over the coming weeks clear timetables and targets will need to be articulated, as further delay in the implementation of the recommendations will not only undermine the livelihoods of the Ogoni communities, but will also cause the pollution footprint to expand. The progress made over the past two days leaves UNEP optimistic and the organization, alongside other UN-agencies, remains committed to supporting the large-scale clean up and restoration needed to make Ogoniland a healthier place to live.
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