Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke
By Chineme Okafor
The federal government yesterday announced the formation of a Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project, with a pledge to fully implement the United Nations Environment Programme Assessment Report on Ogoniland.
Speaking at a press conference in Abuja, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, said the setting up of HYPREP by President Goodluck Jonathan "is in keeping with the federal government’s determination to protect the environmental rights of the people."
She said that HYPREP would assume the responsibility of implementing recommendations in the UNEP report, which was commissioned in 2011, "as well as investigate, evaluate and establish other hydrocarbon impacted sites and make appropriate recommendations."
HYPRP, according to Diezani, will be supervised by the Minister of Environment, Mrs. Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafa.
"With the establishment of this project, it is expected that all stakeholders, especially the impacted communities, will co-operate fully with government and grant unfettered access to all impacted sites to ensure complete success,’’ the minister stated.
She solicited the co-operation of all stakeholders especially community leaders with a view to ensuring the effective implementation of the programme.
"With the establishment of this project, it is expected that all stakeholders especially the impacted communities would co-operate fully with government and grant un-fettered access to all impacted sites to ensure complete success as we go along.
"Furthermore, government is by this notice, soliciting the co-operation of all stakeholders especially community leaders to ensure the effective implementation of this programme," said the minister.
UNEP had at the request of the Nigerian government, conducted an independent assessment of the environment and public health impacts of oil contamination in Ogoniland, in the Niger Delta, and options for redemption.
The UNEP report covers contaminated land, groundwater, surface water, sediment, vegetation, air pollution, public health, industry practices and institutional issues.
Experts say the UNEP report represents the best available understanding of what has happened to the environment of Ogoniland as well as the corresponding implications for affected populations; it equally provides clear operational guidance as to how that legacy can be addressed.
UNEP insisted in its recommendations that environmental restoration of Ogoniland was possible but may take 25 to 30 years.
Experts say the report contains numerous useful recommendations and if implemented, will have an immediate and positive impact on Ogoniland.
For example, it recommended the establishment of an Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Authority to oversee implementation of its findings, with a fixed initial lifespan of 10 years.
The proposed authority will have a separate budget, which will accrue from an Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Fund that will have "an initial capital injection of $1 billion contributed by the oil industry and the government."
Also present at yesterday’s press briefing in Abuja were Mailafia and the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Andrew Yakubu.