The Federal Government has said it would carry out an health audit of the Ogoni people in Rivers State to ascertain the effect of prolonged exposure to hydrocarbon on them.
Also, it said Ogoni youths would be engaged in environmental surveillance to protect oil impacted sites being cleaned by the Hydro-carbon Pollution Remediation Project in the area.
The Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, disclosed this during a one day stakeholder engagement programme in the clean-up of Ogoni land held in Bori, Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Ikeazor explained that the planned health audit was imperative to determine what interventions were needed.
“We will carry out an health audit of Ogoni people, to ascertain the effect of prolong exposure to hydrocarbon on the people, in order to determine the kind of interventions that needs to be done,” the Minister stated.
She assured that the Ministry of Environment will continue to engage the people of Ogoni and their communities, while also appealing for collaboration with all stakeholders to ensure the clean up was a success.
“You call it security but i call it environmental surveillance. So we are going to engage Ogoni youths on environmental surveillance, to protect all the sites we’re cleaning.
No one can protect the sites more than the people. The more we have our young people securing theses sites, the better for us.
“For advertisements of contracts, i have made sure that due process will be followed. The bids will be open to all qualified Nigerians
“We might have to look at other sites that are contaminated, so that ones we finished the clean-up, we know that we have finished every thing, not just cleaning the polluted sites that are under our scope, while there are still other areas that are contaminated.
My goal is to ensure that the clean-up project is owned by the Ogoni people and that more indigenous people acquire the required skills and ability to participate in this clean up,”she added.
Ikeazor said she has given the Project Coordinator the go ahead with the advertisement for setting up of the integrated soil contamination centre as well as the centre of excellence, saying, “I hope it will come up in the next one year.”
The Project Coordinator of HYPREP, Prof. Philip Shekwolo in his opening remarks had briefed the stakeholders on the achievements of the project in the areas of remediation, provision of potable water, livelihood trainings among others.
Earlier, the Chairman of Ogoni Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers, HRM Godwin Gininwa, called for the establishment of a University of Environment in Ogoni to serve as the Centre of Excellence as recommended in the UNEP report.
King Giniwa also called for speed on the pace of the ongoing clean-up exercise.
Speaking, forrmer President, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) Ledum Mitee, called for employment of youths in the project as well as training on skills.
“Money spent on security should be channeld into youth employment. Ogoni youths should be employed to secure HYPREP project sites,”!Mitee said.