By Desmond Ejibas
Eleme (Rivers) – The Federal Government said on Saturday that it was working to provide potable water for the Ogoni people in Rivers as recommended by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Report on Ogoniland Clean-up.
Dr Mohammad Abubakar, the Minister of Environment, stated this while inspecting remediation sites in Eleme and Tai Local Government Areas (LGA) of the state.
Abubakar said that President Muhammadu Buhari was passionate about the project and committed to full implementation of the clean-up of Ogoniland, ruined by decades of oil spillage.
He said: “the issue of potable water was discussed in the last governing council meeting, just as we agreed that we will not just be brining water storage tanks.
“Rather, we want to undertake a serious water supply scheme, in collaboration with the Rivers State Government, so that there will be potable water for the people.
“The clean-up of Ogoniland had been a mirage for a long time until President Muhammadu Buhari came and made a promise that has gone beyond reality to actuality.
“So, this is a project that the president is very passionate about and he is currently fulfilling that promise.”
The minister said the remediation of Ogoni communities was perhaps the first and biggest clean-up exercise ever embarked upon by any government in Africa.
According to him, the exercise, when completed, would restore the environment as well as livelihood of people in the area.
“So, the Federal Government will leave no stone unturned as it follows every recommendation of UNEP report on Ogoniland.
“We want to restore the livelihood, land, water, air and everything else to its natural status. It is the responsibility of government to make sure this is done,” he said.
Abubakar urged the people of the area to support the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) by the ministry to actualise the project.
The Project Coordinator of HYPREP, Dr Marvin Dekil, said the remediation agency conducted medical outreach programmes in 2017 and 2018 with over 20,000 residents treated.
Dekil added that about 4,000 surgeries were carried out during the outreach.
The HYPREP boss pointed out that 21 remediation sites had so far been handed over to 21 contractors to clean up.
“Also, HYPREP has partnered with United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) to train 1,200 Ogoni women on agro farming and processing as part of livelihood restoration programme.
“Similarly, no fewer than 90 per cent of our technical team are indigenes of Ogoni who have been trained by UNEP with support from Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC).
“In addition, plans are underway to move to complex remediation sites in collaboration with UNEP,” he stated.
On his part, the Chairman of Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers, King Godwin Gininwa, urged government to speed up the clean-up and engage indigenous Ogoni contractors in the project.
He gave the assurance that the residents of Eleme, Gokana, Khana and Tai LGAs that make up Ogoniland would fully support and cooperate with those carrying out the exercise.