Bodo (Rivers) – The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says Ogoni people have paid a high price for the success of Nigeria’s oil industry, enduring a toxic and polluted environment for decades.
Outgoing Executive Director of UNEP, Mr Achim Steiner made the remark on Thursday at Bodo in Rivers, where President Muhammadu inaugurated the clean-up of polluted Ogoni land.
“Today marks a historic step toward improving the situation of the Ogoni people who have paid this high price for too long.
“A clean-up and restoration effort like this cannot happen overnight.
“I am hopeful that the cooperation between the Government of Nigeria, oil companies and communities will result in an environmental restoration that benefits both ecosystems and the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta,’’ he said.
Steiner said UNEP had provided the scientific basis for this work, and would continue to offer its technical expertise as needed to help ensure a positive result for all involved.
He recalled that the report on Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland as requested by the Federal Government was released in August 2011.
According to him, it examined for two years the environmental impact of oil industry operations in the area since the late 1950s.
“It found that oil contamination in Ogoniland is extensive and is having a grave impact on the environment, with pollution penetrating further and deeper than previously thought.’’
Mr Erik Solheim, UNEP’s incoming Executive Director, said “the task to clean up Ogoniland will neither be easy nor fast, but it needs to be done’’.
“If we succeed here, it will demonstrate that degraded environments can be restored, sending a signal to many other communities around the world that peaceful co-operation can lead to positive outcomes.
“The clean-up is vital for the future of the region. It will help create new livelihoods as well as establish old livelihoods and change the lives of a million people,” he said
Solheim said it would also ensure sustainable development, even in the most challenging of environments.
According to him, the environmental restoration of Ogoniland is likely to be the world’s most wide-ranging and long-term oil clean up ever undertaken.
Experts said that it may take up to 25 years until ecosystems are fully restored. (NAN)