•Approves N6.04bn water projects for four LGAs in Rivers
By Deji Elumoye
The federal government yesterday put the total number of oil-polluted sites that have been cleaned up in Ogoniland in Rivers State at 15.
Minister of the Environment, Mr. Muhammad Mahmoud, while answering reporters’ questions at the end of the weekly virtual meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at the State House, in Abuja, also stated that the council approved N6.04 billion for the provision of potable water in the four local government areas of Ogoniland namely Gokana, Khana, Eleme and Tai in Rivers State.
He said the cleaning up of the oil pollution sites in Ogoniland was delayed by a year which informed why only 15 sites had been certified clean so far.
He said he met with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) over the matter before approaching President Muhammadu Buhari who approved the adjustment of the contract for the cleanup to commence.
He said: “We had some delays. And this was evident when we came to assess the project and we went all the way to Geneva and met United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) that designed the project, conducted the studies and make recommendations.
“When we came back, I went and explained to Mr. President that according to their record, we were behind by just one year. And we sought approval to make some changes, and he graciously approved. And we have made those changes. And between then and now, 15 sites have been cleaned up and certified clean.
So there was a delay of one year Yes, but then we have progressed. Now I can say that within the last year, we have done up to 15. So there’s a tremendous amount of progress.
“And we are trying to push to catch up with the time, still maybe behind by months. But this is a project that you want to take time to do and do it well. we are talking about the livelihood of people contaminated soil by hydrocarbons, these are cancer-causing chemicals, or we call them carcinogens.”
Mahmood stated that the local communities in Ogoniland did not help matters as they prevented government officials and contractors from accessing their areas for clean-up to progress.
He, however, added that 36 additional contracts had been awarded for the total clean-up of Ogoniland.
“So, you have these hiccups from the beginning and maybe from the beginning and also you have issues also in the area, you know because there are some issues with the land, maybe communities that are in dispute or not letting us access as they should and all that stuff. These are really some of the reasons but I wish to tell you that we have awarded additional contracts about 36
“It took us about five to six months to even access some of the sites that have already been contracted out because some communities are in dispute and will not let us go into the land even commence the cleanup until just recently, not more than three months ago, that we’re able to get them to understand we’re not there for land dispute, but for cleanup, and once you get the cleanup is done, whoever gets the land, gets a clean land,” he stated
The minister also said the FEC meeting approved N6.04 billion for the supply of water to the four local government councils that make up Ogoniland.
This, he said, was a follow-up to the cleanup of the oil polluted areas of Ogoniland.
“If you recall, the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, otherwise known as HYPREP, was commissioned in 2016 to clean Ogoniland, impacted areas of Ogoniland, based on a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
“The mandate of the project is not just cleaning up the contaminated areas by oil pollution, but also to provide drinking water and to also provide alternative livelihood for the people of that area.
“The water projects are at different prices and also different completion periods, I think ranging from six months all the way to nine months, depending on the atmosphere. It’s rehabilitation and construction and some of these will link with the River State Government’s water system,” the minister said.