By Iduozee Paul’s, Benin correspondent
Dr. Nnimmo Bassey
The Executive Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Dr. Nnimmo Bassey has called on the various actors and political leaders from the Niger Delta region to bury their differences in order to collectively ensure the speedy clean-up of Ogoni-land.
Rev. (Dr.) Nnimmo Bassey made the call at a celebration put together in Benin City by his HOMEF staff to honour the environmental legend and icon on the Honorary Doctorate Degree recently conferred on him by York University in the United Kingdom in recognition of his contributions to the struggle for the preservation of a conducive environment in the Niger Delta region and Nigeria.
The environmental activist said the more the project is delayed, the more the oil spillage and bad chemical in the land is contaminating and destroying the vital nutrient in the land and water.
Nnimmo said: “Ogoni-land has come late again and we must ensure the project is properly executed. The finance to be used is not the problem because it is not part of the Nigerian budget. The finance is coming from those oil firms such as NNPC, Agip, Shell and other oil companies that caused the spillage and polluted the land.
“My view is that we should all do what we can do to ensure the project is executed and succeeds. The Ogoni-land is just a tiny fraction in the Niger Delta. If the area is not properly cleaned up, every other area will be polluted and contaminated which goes beyond the Niger Delta. To have Ogoni land properly cleaned up, will take many years; it is a complex project and exercise and Nigerians must know that it is a learning process and encourage those who are in-charge to do what should be done and do it well. If the clean-up of Ogoni- land fails, it means, the environment to a large extent, will be polluted and contaminated. It will be dead and can never be recovered.”
To avert a more damaging outcome the environmental justice crusader called for concerted effort to ensure success.
“So people should bury their differences and ambitions. I am not from Ogoni, but we must all come together and be committed to ensure the clean-up of the land. Otherwise, it will cause more harm and chemical degradation to the environment.”
Identifying some of the constraints that may lead to delay of the project, Dr. Nnimmo Bassey listed time frame to complete the work, getting the right manpower and personnel, the strategies to be used to clean up the area and the modern technology to be adopted as very vital.
The environmental expert who has received several honours and awards also warned against community conflicts that may lead to delay in executing the job.
“People have to bury their private ambition. You know that there are a lot of political reasons and sentiments while others are just interested in the money. Those who do not have skills, equipment, capacity to do the job and connection should not bid for it. This is a situation where nobody should look at the money, as a profit venture. If people look at it with this mindset, there will be a lot of problems in handling the project”.
Calling for sacrifice on all sides, he urged players in the project to remember those who died fighting for environmental justice for Ogoni. He said if the Ogoni Clean-Up fails, it will spell doom for other polluted areas in the Niger Delta.
“The greatest positive that we have fought for is to revalidate it. It is now our chance to remember the memories and honour those people who had lost their lives in the struggle for the cleaning up of the Ogoni land and the entire Niger Delta.
“There are other parts in the Niger Delta, like AKwa-lbom, Bayesian, Delta and these places are more contaminated and polluted than the Ogoni land. The truth is that if we don’t clean up the Ogoni area quickly, we all are going to suffer the whole environmental hazard when the time comes,” Nnimmo posited
He said he was humbled and surprised by the wonderful reception organized in his honour adding that the honorary doctorate degree would spur him to do more and contribute his quota to the advancement of the society and the world at large.
Speaking about the honoree, wife of the environmental legend, Mrs. Evelyn Bassey, said she was not surprised he was conferred with the doctorate degree as she would have been amazed if he was not given the honour because he reads a lot.
Mrs. Bassey disclosed that the books Dr. Nnimmo reads are producing positive and good results and she is proud to have him as a caring, humble, honest, meek, and God fearing husband.
Legal adviser to HOMEF Barrister Chima, said they honored Nnimmo because of the positive impact he has had on the life of every staff.
Chima added that the celebration was as a result of the honorary doctorate degree award given to him by York University in the United Kingdom and described Rev. Nnimmo as an institution of learning to the entire staff and the society in general.
He said the honorees’ hard work and unique contributions to humanity, village to village, community to community in building human capacity earned him the award.
Other staff who spoke described Rev. Nnimmo Bassey as a father, mentor, leader and an inspiration to them, crowned with a high sense of humility. They narrated how they have gained from the wealth of knowledge and experience received from their years of working with him and prayed that God should preserve, protect and give him wisdom to continue the exploits.