President MuhammaduBuharisaid yesterday said that the clean-up exercise of Ogoni land would take not less than two decades.
The president said this at the State House, Abuja, on Thursday before inaugurating the Governing Council and Board of Trustees of the Trust Fund for the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, HYPREP, for the implementation of the UNEP report.
He said the inauguration marked another milestone in the commitment of his administration to ensuring the implementation of the UNEP Report on Ogoniland and other impacted sites.
The clean-up exercise is expected to go on for two decades, with first five years addressing emergency response measures and remediation while the subsequent years will look to restore the ecosystems in the Niger Delta.
He stated: “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 alandscape characterized by a lack of trust, paralysis and blame.”
Buhari noted that while it had been five years since the UNEP Report, it had taken only two months since his 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. 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,” the president said.
He added that it was a collective responsibility to ensure that the project remained on course, “as we face the challenges of high expectations and the current conflict in the Niger Delta.
“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.”
Buhari urged the local communities to cooperate with the government 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 concluded.

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