The Minister of Environment, Ms. Amina Mohammed has given assurance that President Muhammadu Buhari is fully committed to the clean-up of the oil-rich Ogoniland as recommended in the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, Report.
She said this yesterday, after inspecting a clean-up demonstration site in Bodo, Gokana Local Government of Rivers State, in the company of the Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Mrs Ibim Semenitari.
As a demonstration of his commitment to the clean-up exercise, the Minister confirmed that the President would be in Ogoni on June 2 to flag off the Ogoni Clean-up Programme.
She said that it was fortuitous that President Buhari would return to Ogoniland where he had commissioned a flourishing fish pond in 1984. She said it was regrettable that the President would now see a fish pond that had been destroyed by oil pollution. “To come back to see that the fish pond is gone is indeed a tragedy,” she lamented.
Ms. Mohammed said that it was not just that the fish pond was destroyed but that the livelihood and wealth of a people were equally ruined. She said that the President was coming to restore hope. She stated: “The Federal Government is coming back to restore the ecosystem to what it used to be and bring back the source of livelihood for the people.”
The Minister said further: “We are not just committed to implementing the UNEP report. We are going beyond that to also look at the overall effort to revive the Niger Delta region. We have to get all stakeholders to buy into this project so as to make it sustainable. It is not just a project for the Federal Government. The states, local governments and communities have a stake.”
According to the Minister, the commencement of the clean-up exercise was only the beginning. “What is more important is what happens the days after the flag-off. President Buhari is concerned about the issues of security, good governance and the economy,” she maintained.
The NDDC Acting Managing Director said that development was a big issue for the interventionist agency, adding that cleaning up the Niger Delta environment was of utmost importance to the Commission.
Mrs. Semenitari expressed delight that the President was coming to Ogoni to demonstrate the importance he attached to the welfare of the people of the Niger Delta and the Ogonis in particular. “President Buhari is acting true to his character as one who keeps promises,” she emphasised.
The NDDC boss said that Ogonis were united behind the efforts of the Federal Government to clean up their environment, noting that it would help in ensuring the sustainability of the project. She said that the support of stakeholders was critical for the success of the restoration programme.
Mrs. Semenitari stated further: “One of the things the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan stresses on is partnership, which is facilitated through the Partners for Sustainable Development, PSD, Forum. Again, the NDDC is better placed to coordinate the efforts of the various stakeholders.”
One of the community leaders in Bodo, Mene Michael Porobunu, said he was hopeful and excited that at last the polluted environment in Ogoniland would be remediated. He lamented that the Ogonis had to live with the pollution, which he described as “the greatest man-made disaster in this part of the world.”
The UNEP report which was released in 2011, advised the Nigerian authorities and multinational oil companies operating in Ogoniland to clean-up the pollution caused by decades of oil exploration activities in the area.
It stated that the environmental clean-up and restoration of Ogoniland could take between 25 and 30 years to achieve.