The relative peace being enjoyed in the oil-rich Niger Delta may be under threat as some oil producing communities in the region are not happy with the delay in the payment of the alleged N98billion oil pollution compensation fund being promised by the federal government.
Speaking with a cross-section of some community heads in the region they confided in The Nation that the monies were approved during the twilight of the then President Goodluck Jonathan administration and was expected to be paid by President Muhammadu Buhari after due diligence was conducted.
But that was not to be as the government white paper on the payment was still gathering dust on the shelves, the community heads lamented.
Confirming this development, Chief Prof. Jasper Jumbo, Chairman/CEO, Niger Delta Projects Consortium Limited, while fielding question from our correspondent on the sidelines of the “Stakeholders Forum on The Environment” facilitated by the Institute of Directors Nigeria (IoD) Port Harcourt chapter, recently, recalled that he was part of those who drafted the recommendations made by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)which suggested some form of compensation to be paid by oil companies to communities affected by oil spillage.
Specifically, Prof. Jumbo said the agreed levies and compensation the federal government was meant to pay the affected communities in the oil-rich Niger Delta was over N98billion, but which it is yet to pay almost seven years later.
Such delay, the elderstatesman noted, was not in the best interest of the people of the region as it negates the principle of equity and fairness and in fact could precipitate crisis in the region if not handled with tact and diplomacy.
“With the general insecurity in the country the delay in the disbursement of the oil spill compensation fund is a trigger any day,” he warned, adding that it was better to prevent a breakdown of law and order by ensuring that due compensations are paid to the affected communities.
It may be recalled that Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, in August 2017 set in motion a $1 billion clean-up and restoration programme of the Ogoniland region in the Niger Delta, announcing that financial and legislative frameworks had been put in place to begin implementing recommendations made by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Besides, it recommended the creation of an Environmental Restoration Fund (ERF) for Ogoniland with a capital of $1bn, to be co-funded by the federal government, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Shell.
A year later, the Nigerian government established the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP), an agency under the ministry of the environment with the mandate to implement the environmental clean-up programme in Ogoniland.
In 2016, the government then launched a $1bn clean-up and restoration programme of the Ogoniland, with $200m to be released every year.
The cleanup exercise later took off in 2019, eight years after UNEP’s recommendation.
Checks by our correspondent revealed that so far, $360m has been released to HYPREP out of which less than $30m has been spent, making cleanup slow.
Meanwhile, the federal government says it is prepared to regain lost time occasioned by a slip in achieving some timelines in the implementation of the UNEP Report.
Source:- The Nation