FG blames communal disputes for delay in Ogoni clean-up project

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▪︎15 oil-polluted sites cleaned

The Federal Government has blamed the delay in the execution of the Clean-Up Ogoni project in the oil-producing Ogoni kingdom of Rivers State on some communities that have refused to grant access to the affected sites.

The Clean-Up Ogoni project was flagged off in 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari to decontaminate the land from oil spills arising from the production of crude by oil majors.

Minister of Environment, Muhammad Mamoud, who disclosed this after the weekly virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday, at the Presidential Villa, also disclosed that 15 oil-polluted sites had already been cleaned.

The minister also disclosed that the Council approved the sum of N6,048,318,974.74 for the provision of potable water in the four local government areas of Ogoniland namely Gokana, Khana, Eleme and Tai.

Asked why the clean-up has been delayed for close to five years, Mahmoud said: “Let me clear the air that the project is not behind by five years.

Yes, we have some delays. And this was evident when we came to assess the project and we went all the way to Geneva, and met with UNEP, that’s the United Nations Environment Programme that designed the project, conducted the studies and make the recommendations.

“When we came back, I went andexplained to Mr President that according to their record, we were behind by just one year. And we sought for 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 one year, we have done up to 15 sites. So, there’s tremendous amount of progress. And we are trying to push to catch up with the time, although, we are still behind maybe by months. But this is a project that you want to take time to do it and do it well. We are talking about the livelihood of people, contaminated soil by hydrocarbons.

“These are cancer-causing chemicals, or what we call carcinogens. So while we try to make sure that we speed up, we also have been careful to make sure it’s clean and is clean to the standard of the World Health Organisation and the standard set also by UNEP.

“Some of the delays that you are even talking about, yes, this is the first time that a project of this size and this magnitude is being undertaken.

“So, you have these hiccups from the beginning and maybe also you have issues in the area, because there are some issues with the land, maybe communities that are in dispute or not allowing access as they should and all that stuff.

“These are really some of the reasons but I tell you that we have awarded additional contracts about 36 sites, but it took us about five to six months to even access some of the sites that have already been contracted out.”

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