Tony Ita-Etim, Port Harcourt
Minister of Environment, Ms. Amina Mohammed, has described the environmental pollution of the Niger Delta region by oil companies as a tragedy.
The minister made the confession after inspecting a clean-up demonstration site in Bodo, Gokana Local Government of Rivers State.
She observed that it was fortuitous that President Buhari would return to Ogoniland where he had commissioned a flourishing fish pond in 1984.
Mohammed lamented that it was regrettable that the President would now 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.
The minister continued that it was not just that the fish pond was destroyed but that the livelihood and wealth of a people were equally ruined and assured that the President was coming to restore hope.
According to Mohammed, “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 explained “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 the Minister, 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.
Mohammed gave an assurance that President Muhammadu Buhari is fully committed to the clean-up of the oil-rich Ogoniland as recommended in the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, Report.
In her remarks, the Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commissipn, NDDC, Mrs Ibim Semenitari, pointed out that development was a big issue for the interventionist agency while the 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 emphasized.
The NDDC boss said that 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.
Semenitari stated further: “One of the things the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan stresses on is partnership, which is facilitated through the Partners for Sustainable Development, PSD, Forum. Again, the NDDC is better placed to coordinate the efforts of the various stakeholders.”
One of the community leaders in Bodo, Mene Michael Porobunu, said he was hopeful and excited that at last the polluted environment in Ogoniland would be remediated. He lamented that the Ogonis had to live with the pollution, which he described as “the greatest man-made disaster in this part of the world.”
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.