Buhari Flags Off $1bn Ogoni Clean-Up Programme | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Buhari Flags Off $1bn Ogoni Clean-Up Programme

Ogoni Clean-up
Posted: Aug 5, 2016 at 6:15 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

…Inaugurates BoT, Governing Council Members


Innocent Oweh


Abuja – President Muhammadu Buhari has kicked off the process for the Ogoniland clean-up programme , with the inauguration of a 12-member Governing Council and 13-member Board of Trustees (BoT).

President Buhari, who inaugurated the members at the Presidential Villa, on Thursday, said he was pleased to muster the courage to begin the implementation of the cleanup five years after UNEP report highlighted the devastation and gravity of the clean-up programme.

Members of the Governing Council include the Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, as Chairman; Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udoma; Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Usani; Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu; National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno; Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Nsima Ekere; Managing Director of SPDC, Osagie Okunbor, amongst others.

Representatives of Ogoni stakeholders on the council include Pyagbarah Legborsi, Ben Naneen, and two alternatives.

Members of the Board of Trustees include Olawale Edun as Chairman; Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun; Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Jibril; Minister of State, Petroleum.

Representatives of IOCs include Osagie Okunbor, Insula Massim, and Alexis Bobk.

The Ogoni stakeholders, other communities in the Niger Delta, NGOs as well as the UNEP are also represented on the board.

A legal adviser would be appointed by the governing council in due course.

According to Buhari, it would be in the interest of the local community, youths in particular, to cooperate with the team and maintain peace during the clean-up exercise because they are the direct beneficiaries of the project.

The project, code-named Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), is expected to last for two decades and to gulp $1billion US dollars in the first tranche.

Buhari said he expected the governing council members to transform what he termed “a tragic tale of desolation and destruction” to one of restoration and opportunity for the coming generations.

He also gave assurance that the expertise and technology to carry out the project exist and, in the end, would serve as the “gold standard” for the clean-up of similar pollution in other parts of the Niger Delta, and the world at large.

He said: “I thank you all for accepting to serve on the Governing Council and on the Board of Trustees, respectively, of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project.

“This is a very important endeavour that has direct impact on the lives and livelihoods of our brothers and sisters whose environments have been severely degraded by years of unchecked pollution from oil exploration activities.

“It is exactly five years today, on the 4th of August, 2011, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) submitted an extensive report on its environmental assessment of Ogoniland.

“That report, which was commissioned by the Administration of former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, did not only document the problems that existed, but also contained recommendations on how they can be addressed, both in the short term and in the long term.

“Five years on, the project is yet to properly take off. It would appear to have experienced a series of false starts, while the local communities continue to suffer from the problem, which has existed long before the Report.

“This all adds to the picture described in the UNEP Report as ‘a landscape characterized by a lack of trust, paralysis and blame.’

“I am pleased to note that while it has been five years since the UNEP Report, it has taken only two months since this administration flagged off the Project.”

Buhari who noted that the project would take up to two decades to complete, called for patience and understanding from the stakeholders.

“Indeed, a project of this magnitude requires extensive planning, scientific analysis, community involvement, and genuine partnerships. As a result, it will require patience and understanding of the key stakeholders as we move forward.

“It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the Project remains on course, as we face the challenges of high expectations and the current conflict in the Niger Delta.

“The clean-up exercise is expected to go on for two decades. The first five years will address emergency response measures and remediation while the subsequent years will look to restore the ecosystems in the Delta.

“The governance framework we lay today, following extensive consultations, will form the bedrock for sustainability for years to come,” the President said.

However, indications emerged that the project may not fully take off in another six months.

This much was revealed by the Minister of Environment when she briefed State House correspondents.

She explained that more work had to be done in clearly articulating the policies and strategies that would ensure the smooth running of the cleanup which is expected to run for two decades, adding that with the team to implement now in place, resources would not pose a challenge.

She said government monitoring and evaluation on the project would be

handled mostly by the media and the Civil Society Organisations for

proper feedback on performance and accountability.

Former Senator representing Rivers South East federal constituency, Magnus Abe, who spoke on the development, criticized various oil companies operating in the region, saying their ineptitude accounted for the environmental degradation which Nigerians had been made to suffer.

He said now that the lessons had been learnt and a genuine effort at sanitizing the Ogoniland had been shown by the Federal Government, stakeholders in the community must ensure they made the place conducive for experts of all shades and countries to be able to come in and work there.

“For me, the Ogoni representation in the board and governing council was quite extensive. We have a lot to do in terms of not only making the place conducive for this work to go on, educating our people on why we have to make the place conducive for experts of all shades and countries to be able to come in and work there.

“But I think the whole of Nigeria also has something to learn from what has happened; the oil industry itself must reform its ways so that they don’t continue to behave in the way they were behaving that led us to where we are today.

“Our own regulators too must also up their game because if our regulators were actually regulators, I don’t think they would allow the oil companies to take this country to where it is now in terms of environmental impact of oil exploration.

“And we, as a country, too, we need to also up our game; we can’t have disputes about politics and then blow up pipelines in our own communities, destroying the environment, destroying our future because of politics.”