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Buhari Launches Clean-up of Ogoni Land Today

PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari will today formally launch the clean-up of the oil-devastated region of Ogoni in Rivers State, during his second visit to the Niger Delta region since he came to office a year ago.

UNEP Report

The president’s launch of the implementation of the United Nations Environmental Programme, UNEP report on Ogoni could also signal the president’s commitment to the oil region despite continuing flashes of violence by militants opposed to his policies. The actions of the militants styled as the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, have brought down the country’s oil production levels to a 20 year low.

The UNEP report on Ogoni land was articulated by the UN body upon the request of the immediate past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan which had approached it to conduct an independent and objective assessment of the environmental situation in Ogoni. The findings and the report were submitted to the government in July 2011. Jonathan later approved the establishment of Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project, HYREP as a unit in the Ministry of Petroleum to drive some sections of the report. However, subsequently, nothing came out of the moves until the exit of the administration.

President Buhari had during the campaigns promised to implement the UNEP report, and last August formally gave his determination to that effect with the setting up of governing council and board of trustees of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project, HYPREP. The report when it was released by the UNEP on August 4, 2011, called for an initial $1 billion to kick start the rehabilitation of the oil-rich Ogoni land under a phased programme it said could extend up to 30 years.

The report said that pollution caused by oil exploration for over 50 years penetrated deeper than many had supposed. The assessment carried out over a 14-month period by a UNEP team examined more than 200 locations, surveyed 122 kilometres of pipeline rights of way, reviewed more than 5,000 medical records and engaged over 23,000 people at local community meetings.

Detailed soil and groundwater contamination investigations were conducted at 69 sites, which ranged in size from 1,300 square metres in Ogoni land including more than 4,000 samples. Water taken from 142 groundwater monitoring wells drilled specifically for the study and soil extracted from 780 boreholes were also investigated.

This will be President Buhari’s second coming to Ogoniland. The first was in 1984 when Buhari visited Ogoniland to inaugurate a fish pond. That fish pond has totally been destroyed by pollution from incessant oil spills.

The Minister of Environment, Ms. Amina Mohammed, noted that not only the fish pond was destroyed, both the ‘wealth and livelihood’ of the people of Ogoni were ruined, while inspecting the cleanup site before the president’s visit.

“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.

She also stated “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.”

The NDDC Acting Managing Director, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, stated also that  the Ogoniland and the Niger Delta clean-up programme very important to the NDDC.

The UNEP report, which was first released in 2011, advised the Nigerian authorities and multinational oil companies operating in Ogoniland to clean-up the pollution caused by years 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.

Meanwhile, former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), Senator Magnus Abe, has said the implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoni land is the fulfillment of the campaign promise of the All progressives Congress (APC).


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