Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has allayed fears that the Ogoni clean-up project has been abandoned adding that it would soon commence.
He gave the assurance on Thursday in Abuja at a National Summit on the Niger Delta Cleanup themed: “Management of Contaminated Environments in Nigeria for Sustainable Development” organised by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (Centre LSD) and Cordaid.
Osinbajo, who represented by the Minister of State for Environment Ibrahim Jibrin said that since the inception of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration in 2015, an extensive review of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) Gazette has being undertaken.
According to him, contrary to claims that government has been docile on the issue, it recently inaugurated a Governing Council and a Board of Trustees for HYPREP to ensure transparent implementation of the project and engender financial probity.
“Government also established the Project Coordinating Office of HYPREP in Port Harcourt with a project Coordinator recruited. By next meeting of the governing council which is next week the budget would be considered. You cannot do anything without money and you cannot collect the money without budgeting for it so you have to show the work that it is meant for. We are on the right track and very soon we would all see the work being done,” he said.
He said that funding was a major constraint for the seeming delay in the project and that the clean-up exercise which has been captured in the 2018 budget would soon take effect.
He said, “The commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari to addressing the environmental degradation in the Niger Delta has never been in doubt. Nigerians were growing out of patience not minding the fact that the delay was due to wanting to do a perfect job on the clean-up.”
Speaking earlier the Executive Director of CISLAC Mallam Auwal Musa Rafsanjani expressed fear that the Federal Government may abandon the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, which assessed the extent of environmental pollution in the oil-rich Niger Delta.
He said the Presidency merely launched the commencement of the clean-up exercise with all the fanfare and simply went to sleep.
“Apart from a few visits carried out by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo and former Minister of Environment, currently the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed to the region, nothing tangible has been done about the plight of people in the region,” Rafsanjani said.
“The report, which made far-reaching recommendations, also raised local and international concerns on the environmental tragedy in the oil-producing Niger-Delta. But despite the local and international outcry that greeted the UNEP report, the former administration did nothing towards implementing the report and the current administration is going in that direction considering that 2018 is an election year.
“More than a year after the federal government launched the implementation of the Ogoni clean-up project, not much has been done to inspire anyone, not least the affected communities. The project has been weighed down by all kinds of silly excuses and institutional bureaucracy,” he said.
In his remark, the Executive Director of the Centre LSD Dr Otive Igbuzor said that the oil exploration in the Niger Delta led to environmental degradation, loss of livelihood and deprivation and general lack of development in the region.
He therefore urged government to appropriately act and ensure the success of the clean-up in the interest of the nation and citizenry.