Ogoni-land

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 was recommended by the 2011 UNEP report (i.e. four years ago). Why it took so long to get to this stage can be said to be as a result of a confluence of sheer misgovernnance, inordinate oil wealth greed, political insensitivity and as you might have known already, corruption. So what is the predictable expected scenario of the clean-up in practice?

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.

The oil pollution clean-up effected for the Niger Delta will to the initiated be viewed primarily as an ‘opportunity for self-enrichment’ for 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.

This is also ‘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.

One can easily imagine the ‘clean-up buzz’ echoing within the minds profiteers in Nigeria and Diaspora. Unsolicited proposals will be tendered to various patrons in various sections of government and society with the destination being Hydrocarbons Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP), the agency charged with the clean-up.

The CVs of a wide range of professional will also be dusted and degrees touted. Dormant contacts with patrons and their proxies will be reactivated. New companies will be registered 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 thinking how many lives and how many rivers / vegetation could have been save or restored if this had come even a year earlier not to talk of those with a long memory 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.

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 created 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. Is this how Nigeria and its projects will be perpetually run?

The Buhari Administration has the power, authority, resources and perhaps the will to prevent the scenario presented above about the predictable expectations of the Niger Delta clean-up from happening. It is up to the Administration, no one else.

Grimot Nane

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