By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA-President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday in Abuja inaugurated the Governing Council and the Board of Trustees of the Trust Fund for the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP).
The two bodies were for the Implementation of the United Nations Environmental Report (UNEP) Report on Ogoniland.
The Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed was named the chairman of the government board.
Other members of the board included Minister of 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 SPDC, Osagie Okunbor amongst others.
Representatives of Ogoni Stakeholders on the Council include Pyagbara
Legborsi, Ben Naneen, and two alternatives.
Similarly, members of the BoT included Wale Edun as Chairman, the Minister of
Finance Kemi Adeosun, Minister of state for environment Ibrahim Jibril, Minister of State Petroleum.
Representatives of International Oil companies, IOCs included Osagie Okunbor, Insula Massim, and Alexis Bobk.
Stakeholders form Ogoni land, some communities in the Niger Delta, Non governmental organizations, NGOs as well as the UNEP are also on the board.
A legal adviser would be appointed by the governing council in due course.
Inaugurating the boards at the presidential villa, Abuja, president Buhari said it was in the fulfillment of the report of UNEP submitted in 2011.
He said: “Today marks another milestone in the commitment that this Administration has made in ensuring the implementation of the UNEP Report in Ogoniland and other impacted sites.
“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.
“Since the time of flag-off, considerable effort has been expended to create a robust mechanism for implementing the Project in the long term. The Governing Council and Board of Trustees, which are being inaugurated today 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 for this Project are used only for the intended purpose.”
The president who noted that the Programme would require extensive planning also called for patience.
He said that it was important that the project would continue despite the challenges in the Niger Delta, saying that the cleaning would span for 20 years.
“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.
“Together we will be able to transform what is today a tragic tale of desolation and destruction to one of restoration and opportunity for the coming generations. The expertise and technology exist to make this a reality. In the end, this project will serve as the “gold standard” for the clean-up of similar pollution in other parts of the Niger Delta, and the world at large.
“I use this opportunity, through you, to call upon the Local Communities especially our youth, who will be the direct beneficiaries of this effort, to work with us in ensuring the security of the projects and persons implementing them. Even more so, that we prevent the recontamination of the polluted sites in Ogoniland.
“In appointing each and every one of you, I expect that you will give your utmost commitment to ensuring the highest standard of transparency and accountability in this important task”, he said.
Commenting on the project, a stakeholder in the Niger Delta, Senator Magnus Abe said that the exercise was significant to the development of the region.
“It is signifcant because that is what the past administration had refused to do. So, with what has happened today 5 years after the report was submitted we are well on our way. The BOT is meeting right now as we speak so they have hit the ground running and then we believe before the end of the year things will begin to happen.
“The UNEP report specifies a billion dollars and Shell has announced since that report was released that money is available so that initial funds for the cleanup of Ogoni land is available but that money may not be enough that’s why Wale Edun, world renowned financial expert was brought in as the chairman to give confidence to the investors and donors that any fund that is brought out would be well utilised. So, we expect that following …principle more money will come but the N1million is definitely available.
“We saw 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”, he said.