Buhari raises governing council, trustees’ board for Ogoni cleanup
Another practical step towards the cleanup of Ogoniland was taken yesterday by the Federal Government when it inaugurated the governing council and Board of Trustees (BoT) for the hydrocarbon pollution remediation project.
About two months ago, the government kicked off the cleanup of Ogoniland in Rivers State.
The 30-member governing council has the Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed as the chairperson, while the 12-member BoT has a former Finance Commissioner in Lagos State, Mr. Wale Edun as the chairman.
President Muhammadu Buhari, in his remarks at the inauguration of the two bodies at the Presidential Villa, Abuja yesterday expressed the belief that the cleanup would have a direct impact on the lives and livelihoods of residents and indigenes of Ogoniland, whose environments have been severely degraded by years of unchecked pollution from oil exploration activities.
He charged all members of the two bodies to give their utmost commitment to ensuring the highest standard of transparency and accountability in the management of the $1 billion to be given by the International Oil Companies (IOCs).
On August 4, 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 contained recommendations on how they could be addressed, both in the short- and long-terms.
Buhari lamented: “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 characterised by a lack of trust, paralysis and blame.’
“While it has been five years since the UNEP report, it has taken only two months since this administration kicked off the project, and considerable effort has been expended to create a robust mechanism for implementing the project in the long term.
“The Governing Council and the Board of Trustees, which are being inaugurated today (yesterday) jointly form an essential part of the governance framework. In addition to the management and administration structure, other systems and controls are being put in place to ensure that the funds devoted to this project are used only for the intended purpose.”
According to him, the cleanup 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 restoring the ecosystems in the Delta.
The president noted that the governance framework put in place following extensive consultations, would form the bedrock for sustainability for years to come.
Senator Magnus Abbe, while underscoring the significance of the events, said it would go a long way in ensuring long-term peace in Ogoniland.
Abbe, who is an indigene of the area, commended the president for taking steps towards realising the objective.
“It is significant because that is what the past administration had refused to do, so with what has happened today, five years after the report was submitted, we are well on our way. We believe that before the end of the year, things will begin to happen.”
Asked how to guarantee security in the area, Abbe said: “We saw the Ogoni representation on the BoT 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, but 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.”
On behalf of the IOCs, Managing Director of the Shell Petroleum Development Company, (SPDC) Mr. Osagie Okunbor explained that with the appropriate governing structure in place, the IOCs were prepared to play their parts towards successful the cleanup of Ogoniland and by extension the Niger Delta region.