By Olusegun Emmanuel, Abuja.
Elder statesman and delegate at the ongoing National Conference, Mr. Edwin Clark, yesterday warned that unless something urgent is done to salvage the environmental issues in the Niger Delta, the region might soon cease to exist.
Chief Clark, who raised the alarm at the conference’s plenary during his contributing to the debate on the report of the Conference Committee on Environment decried the rate of degradation of oil-producing areas and untold hardship faced by people living along the coastal lines in Niger Delta.
He therefore called for holistic measures to minimise the hardship as soon as possible. “We sit on top of water in the Niger Delta, yet we do not have water to drink,” he lamented.
The elder statesman also implored that there was nothing new in the report of the Conference Committee on Environment, adding that the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) had in 2011 submitted a report which showed that it would take 30 years to clean up the oil spills in the Niger Delta region.
“I would like to say that there is really nothing new in the report compared to the environmental report of 2005. The problem is the implementation of the report, Clark said, adding, ” Three years ago, the United Nations submitted a report to the federal government for the cleanup of Ogoni land and the report said it was going to take about 20 years to clean the area and that $20 billion was needed. “It was only last year that a committee was created to look into it.”
The former Minister told delegates to look beyond what the country gets from the region, but ponder on the level of degradation oil exploration has caused the area the area.
“If we do not do something, one day, we will be wiped out, while the rest of the people will be enjoying the things from the area.” He warned.
“Our environment has been polluted. We sit on top of water in the Niger Delta, yet we do not have water to drink. When I was small, we used to put a calabash outside and fishes will jump in. Now, my people eat ice fish. There are no more farm lands, no fruits. We have lost everything in the Niger Delta.
“Recently, Chevron had their equipment burnt. For three months, it was burning and there was nobody to put it out. Chevron has refused to compensate communities affected.
“The people are suffering. I am pleading. Do not think of what you get. Think of the area where these things are gotten. We need compensation. We need re-greening in our area,” he added.
Another south south delegate and an environmental activist, Nnimo Bassey, called for the entrenchment of what he called ‘resource democracy’ in the country.
He said the Niger Delta environment is almost damaged beyond repair adding that the government has failed to clean up Ogoni communities long after the United Nations report was released.