Niger Delta Clean-Up for Profiteers?
It has been announced by the Buhari Administration that the heinous cumulative oil pollution in the Niger Delta will be cleaned-up; this is very good news. The clean-up is a recommendation by the 2011 UNEP report (i.e. four years ago). Why it took so long to get to this stage? Perhaps, a result of a confluence of sheer misgovernance, inordinate oil wealth greed, political insensitivity. As you might have known already, the delay is due to corruption. So what is the predictable scenario of the clean-up in practice? Are Niger Deltan going to have clean water resources and decontaminated lands?
A starting premise is that Nigeria has been effectively governed (with few exceptions) by the unspoken bye-law “if it is good for profiteers it is good for everybody”. Projects executed in Nigeria necessarily end up uncompleted or substandard because profiteering has infinitely more importance than service delivery. That is why thieves are national heroes and thieving a national aspiration.
Therefore, the oil pollution clean-up for the Niger Delta will become a juicy ‘opportunity for self-enrichment’ by the usual patrons and clients. Contractors, consultants, for-profit and not for profit organisations are now all preparing their cash collection bags with an overwhelming desire to reap a bounty from clean-up activities. Clean water resources and decontaminated lands will certainly be a secondary priority.
Furthermore, this will also be ‘business as usual’ for rent-seekers and fund-diverters within the political and business class. The purpose of the clean-up is to remediate and restore a thriving environment/ecosystem in the Niger Delta and restore the livelihoods/lives of its residents. Profiteering, big or small, is not the reason for the clean-up. However, clean-ups require paid for goods and services.
Thus, One can easily imagine the ‘clean-up buzz’ echoing within the minds profiteers in Nigeria and Diaspora. Unsolicited proposals will flow in to various patrons in various sections of government and society. Their destination being Hydrocarbons Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP), the agency charged with the clean-up.
Lest I forget, the CVs of a wide range of professionals will also undergo polishing and certificates will go into circulation. Dormant contacts with patrons and their proxies will experience reactivation. New companies will file for registration but without offices or personnel. The “I can do it” rhetoric will break new grounds of persuasion. The clean-up means ‘strictly profit’ to too many. One should wonder how many people are now thinking of a very successful and very well executed clean-up for the Niger Delta, after all, it is a long-awaited, necessary and momentous event.
Countless Niger Deltans will weep at hearing the announcement. They will be thinking how many lives and how many rivers/vegetation could have been saved or restored if this had come even a year earlier. Not to talk of those with a long memory of struggles over the decades of oil-pollution and its consequences.
Unless the Buhari Administration is very strict and diligent about the execution of the clean-up project it will end up being ‘just another’ very expensive ‘incomplete project’ littering Nigeria. Shoddy goods and services offered by the profiteers would normally be charged at prices inflated well beyond the premium price. Nepotism and favouritism will undermine any attempt to adopt transparent bidding for contracts. Luxury cars, five-star travel/accommodation, plush offices, wardrobe allowances will form a significant proportion of the expenses.
As usual, at the end of it all the expected uncompleted project will be no one’s fault whatsoever. Impunity shall reign. Yet, wealth will flow into the hands of the few – new profiteering affluence for newbies and the already affluent just get richer. Sadly, the pollution and the hell it creates for people and the environment in the Niger Delta remains. Nigeria cannot manage its projects like the perpetually.
The Buhari Administration has the power, authority, resources and perhaps the will to prevent the scenario presented above. Those are the predictable expectations of the Niger Delta clean-up happening. It is up to the Administration the take the clean-up serious, no one else.