Buhari to Launch Ogoniland Clean-up June 2, Says Environment Minister
- Implementation of report is fulfilment of APC campaign promise, says Abe
Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Minister of Environment, Ms. Amina Mohammed, has assured the people of Ogoniland that President Muhammadu Buhari is fully committed to the clean-up of the oil-rich area as recommended in the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Report.
She said this yesterday after inspecting a clean-up demonstration site in Bodo, Gokana Local Government of Rivers State, in the company of the Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mrs. Ibim Semenitari.
As a demonstration of his commitment to the clean-up exercise, the minister confirmed that the president would be in Ogoni on June 2 commence the Ogoni clean-up programme.
She said it was fortuitous that Buhari would return to Ogoniland where he had inaugurated a flourishing fish pond in 1984 only to see a fish pond that had been destroyed by oil pollution.
“To come back to see that the fish pond is gone is indeed a tragedy,” she lamented.
Mohammed said it was not just that the fish pond was destroyed but that the livelihood and wealth of a people were equally ruined. She said the president was coming to restore hope.
She stated: “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 further: “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.”
According to her, the commencement of the clean-up exercise was only the beginning.
“What is more important is what happens the days after the flag-off. President Buhari is concerned about the issues of security, good governance and the economy,” she maintained.
The NDDC Acting Managing Director, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, also said the clean-up exercise was a big issue for the interventionist agency, adding that cleaning up the Niger Delta environment was of utmost importance to the commission.
Semenitari expressed delight that the president was coming to Ogoni to demonstrate the importance he attached to the welfare of the people of the Niger Delta and the Ogonis in particular. “President Buhari is acting true to his character as one who keeps promises,” she emphasised.
The NDDC boss said Ogonis were united behind the efforts of the federal government to clean up their environment, noting that it would help in ensuring the sustainability of the project. She said that the support of stakeholders was critical for the success of the restoration programme.
The UNEP report, which was released in 2011, advised the Nigerian authorities and multinational oil companies operating in Ogoniland to clean-up the pollution caused by decades 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).
Abe, who is APC candidate for Rivers South East denatorial district in the yet-to-be-concluded legislative re-run election, spoke yesterday at Rhythm FM 93.7 news and current affairs programme tagged: “Talk-of-the-Town,” monitored in Port Harcourt.
He said the APC deserved commendation and not condemnation on the implementation of the project.
He frowned at a situation where anytime credit is given to APC and himself for the project, the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would say the implementation should not be politicised.
He said: “What is disturbing to me now is that now that we are set to implement the report, every time I open my mouth and say something, you will hear people say don’t politicise the report and I ask: what is the politicisation of the UNEP report? Is it the voice of Senator Abe that is now politicisation of the UNEP report?
“This was the same voice when I went to every village in ogoni land. It was our campaign slogan in the APC- $1 billion dollars, APC. It was a campaign promise by the APC presidential candidate. The implementation of the UNEP report in Ogoni land is the fulfilment of an APC campaign promise. It is a programme of the APC-led Federal Government of Nigeria.”
Abe said politics in the country would be better if people learnt to give credit to a party that fulfilled its campaign promise, pointing out that in so doing, there would be a healthy competition among parties to fulfill their promises.
He cited the case of Saakpenwa-Kono road flagged off by Governor Nyesome Wike as credit to the PDP.
His words: “Governor Nyesome Wike was in Ogoni land to launch the Saakpenwa-Kono road, which a lot of people have described as politics and that it’s just a response to the visit of the president and the elections in the area. Everybody there was making speeches how the former government did not do it.
“We know that that was politics but it does not stop me as an Ogoni man from being happy that the governor remembered us. It does not stop me from appreciating the fact that he is going to do a road that we need and I would be one of those who will use the road even though I’m not in PDP. Every Ogoni son who wants to pass on that road will use the road. So, we are all happy that the governor came to do that.”
Abe, however, said although the road project was budgeted for N100 million, which means that it was not a serious project but politics that the governor could make it worthwhile if he had the political will to complete it.
“I do not want to make an issue out of the fact that from the information available to me what was projected or budgeted for the road is N100 million. It means there was actually no plan to do the road at this time. But if he is doing the road, we are happy about it and I thank him for remembering us at this time.
“I think that in the same vein, the PDP members in Ogoni should be gracious enough to thank us and President Buhari for the APC government coming to keep its promise to the Ogoni people. I think it is the determination of the PDP not to acknowledge that this is the fulfilment of a promise by the APC government that brings up the issue of anytime you open your mouth and say this is APC government; they say you are politicising the report”.
He commended Buhari for his political will to implement the UNEP report.
“I want to particularly thank him for his commitment to the clean-up of Ogoniland,” he said.
The former Secretary to Rivers State Government urged every Ogoni son and daughter irrespective of party affiliation to support the project and cautioned that it did not preclude the APC from celebrating a promise fulfilled.
Abe said the journey to UNEP report began when he as the SSG and the then governor of the state, now Minister of Transportation, Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, requested, approved and supported the United Nations team to conduct a scientific survey in Ogoniland on the oil pollution in the area.
He further said move tainted their image as they were alleged to have plotted the return of Shell to Ogoniland for oil exploration through the back door.
Abe stated that when the report was eventually published, nobody gave them credit.
He said because of the love for his people, he led a delegation to former president Jonathan and latter to the presidential candidate of APC, now President Muhammadu Buhari.
“I wasn’t just part of the delegation to former president Jonathan. I actually led the delegation and I read the address on behalf of the Ogoni people, which I presented to former president Jonathan. In fact, because of the fiery nature of what we said in that place, while I was talking, they asked the press to leave. So, I actually handed over that address to former president Jonathan. I also presented the address on behalf of the Ogoni people to then presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari,” he revealed