• Calls for patience from stakeholders
From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has inaugurated the Governing Council and Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Trust Fund for the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) for the implementation of the United Nations Environmental Report (UNEP) on Ogoniland.
This is even as the Federal Government has resolved that the counterpart funding for the cleanup will be drawn from Joint Venture (JVC).
Buhari, during the ceremony at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, which is coming two months after the groundbreaking ceremony to kick-start the cleaning process, said it was a huge project and needed thorough planing and the involvement of the community and, therefore, called for patience and understanding of the people.
“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,” he said.
“It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the project remains on course, as we face the challenges of high expectations and the current conflict in the Niger Delta.
“The clean-up is exercise is expected to go on for two decades. The first five years will address emergency response measures and remediation, while the subsequent years will look to restore the ecosystems in the Delta.
“The governance framework we lay today, following extensive consultations, will form the bedrock for sustainability for years to come.
“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,” the president remarked.
Buhari called on local communities, who he observed were the direct beneficiaries of the project to ensure its security and that of the persons implementing it.
“I use this opportunity, to call upon the local communities, especially our youths who will be the direct beneficiaries of this effort, to work with us in ensuring the security of the projects and persons implementing them.
While thanking the appointees for accepting the responsibility, he urged them to give their utmost commitment to ensuring the highest standard of transparency and accountability in “this important task.”
The inauguration came exactly five years to the day the UNEP submitted an extensive report on its environmental assessment of Ogoniland.
Members of the Governing Council include the Minister of Environment as the Chairman, Minister of National Planning, Udoma Udoma, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Usani, Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Nsima Ekere, Managing Director, SPDC, Osagie Okunbor, amongst others.
Representatives of Ogoni Stakeholders on the Council include Pyagbara Legborsi, Ben Naneen and two alternatives.
Members of the BoT include Wale Edun as Chairman, Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Jibril and Minister of State for Petroleum. Representatives of IOCs include Osagie Okunbor, Insula Massimo and Alexis Bobk. Other communities in the Niger Delta, NGOs as well as the UNEP are also represented on the board. A legal adviser would be appointed by the governing council in due course.