Buhari sets up fund to clean up Ogoniland oil spills

Oil spills in the Ogoniland in the Niger Delta, Nigeria. PHOTO | FILE 

Nigeria's president Muhammadu Buhari has set in motion the $1 billion efforts to clean up Ogoniland oil spills, in the country's oil rich Niger Delta.

The move comes four years after the United Nations advised the government and oil industry to speed up the clean up.

Oil companies operating in the area are expected to fund the initiative.

Coming twenty years after the hanging of environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa over his agitation for the restoration of Ogoniland in Rivers state, the initiative has been lauded by many.

The writer launched a non-violent movement for social and ecological justice to save Ogoniland, his home.

The campaign opposed Shell’s operation in Ogoni. But in the melee, some elders who were accused of receiving bribes from the oil company were killed in violence that erupted.

Saro-Wiwa was then tried by a tribunal, which found him guilty and was executed on November 10, 1995.

Years later, Nigerian government a pproached UNEP to conduct an independent assessment of the environmental situation in Ogoni.

Its finding was handed over to former President Goodluck Jonathan in July 2011, setting in motion the restoration efforts.

Move lauded

Communications adviser to the Presidency, Mr Femi Adesina, said on Wednesday that President Buhari had also effected the amendment to earlier gazette establishing the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) to reflect a new governance framework.

The President also approved composition of a team composed to work on the issue.

Ogoniland covers around 1,000 square kilometres in the country's Rivers State, with a population of more than 830,000. It is the third largest mangrove ecosystem in the world.
The region's population is predominantly farmers and fishermen.

The environmental restoration of Ogoniland could prove to be the world’s most wide ranging and long term oil clean up exercise ever undertaken if contaminated drinking water, land, creeks and important ecosystems such as mangroves are to be brought back to full, productive health.

The report UNEP shows that pollution from over 50 years of oil operations in the region has penetrated very deep. thus, some areas, which appear unaffected at the surface, are in reality severely contaminated underground.

The Chairman of the Niger Delta Civil Society Coalition, Mr Anyakwee Nsirimovu, appealed to Ogoni to unite to ensure successful implementation of the report.
“The Buhari administration is most commended, especially in taking the bold decision to relieve the people of Ogoni of the sentence of environmental death”, the group said.

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