From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government, on Wednesday, said the completion of the entire Ogoni Cleanup Project during the lifetime of the current administration, is not likely.
The Minister of Environment, Mohammed Abdullahi, disclosed this while addressing State House Correspondents after his first meeting, as Minister, with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
While explaining that the clean up project was cut into phases, Abdullahi, said 10 formally polluted sites have been cleaned up, adding that there had been concerns about some aspects of the project, but assured that the federal government had made moves at rallying all stakeholders so the work could move faster.
The minister said this was one of the issues, he had briefed President Buhari on and how much progress had been made, adding the President had instructed the ministry to ensure that adequate attention is paid to delivering on the project.
“I had the opportunity to present to Mr. President, in accordance with the key priorities of the ministry, certain key projects that are undergoing some sort of review and seeking direction from Mr. President.
“First, you are all aware of the hydrocarbon pollution remediation projects, which is called the Ogoni cleanup. It’s a major priority of this government and particularly, based on the undertaking and the promises made by Mr. President, to deliver a very clean ecosystem for the Ogoni people.
“Now I have briefed the President on where we are today and with my engagement inter alia, with key stakeholders; I had discussions with Shell, with UNEP, that is the United Nations Environment Program. I also had discussions with the chairman of the Ogoni Trust Fund, and of course, the newly deployed Project Coordinator of the fund.
“So, I’ve updated the President on that and the key understanding is that we are focused on delivery of the Ogoni cleanup. We are directed, particularly by the President, to be very focused and, as he said, fix our eyes on the ball to ensure there are no distractions, that we deliver.
“He has given us marching orders to ensure that the concerns raised by the partners, particularly Shell, UNEP, Agip, Total, and other parties, and indeed the stakeholders of Ogoniland, that those concerns are addressed to ensure that the process goes on hindered”, he said.
Asked if administration hoped to complete the clean up process during its tenure, the Minister said things are being sped up, but that the administration did not envisage completing all the phases.
“There is nothing miraculous about our approach to the cleanup operations, it is going to be a very pragmatic, practicable and quick-win solution. First, like I told you earlier, is to ensure that there is a multi-stakeholder agreement in terms of what we’re supposed to do, where we’re going.
“Then secondly, we’ve taken very strong steps to address the concerns bordering on procurement, on project management, on fund management and so on, so that all stakeholders will be on board.
“So, I can assure you that if these issues are resolved, within the next couple of weeks, we should be focused on immediate procurement processes that will ensure that the projects are implemented as at when due.
“However, they are phased projects, we do not envisage that we can finish the entire project within the lifetime of this government. However, the process that we can do at the moment, the procurement that we can do at the moment, to ensure that there is immediate irrigation, water projects to ensure that there is clean water provided for the people and that other sites, will begin the remediation process.
“This is done in liaison with UNEP and our sister agency, NESDRA. So, we are on course, we’ll do the best we can and I can assure you that we will cover some mileage in the process.
“So, there is no magic or miracle about it, we are focused on what want to do. Like I told you, Mr. President said our eyes must be on the ball and that’s what we’re trying to do”, he said.
On how much work has so far been done, he said “at the moment, from the briefings I’ve gotten from the Project Coordinator of HYPREP, there has been considerable progress in terms of actual site remediation. Unfortunately, I don’t have the sites yet, but close to about 10 sites that are very endemic in terms of pollution and damaged ecosystem, have been remediated.
“Actually, there have been a number of measures that have gone into that process”, he said.
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