President Muhammadu Buhari has assured the people of Ogoni land that they will never be treated unfairly again, as his administration is fully committed to restoring the ecosystem to what it used to be and as such restore the peoples’ source of livelihood.
The president made the statement while launching the clean-up of oil spills in Ogoni land as recommended by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report in Bodo, Rivers state.
Represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Buhari said that that he is not only committed to implementing the UNEP report but will take steps to improve security, good governance and economy of the Niger Delta region.
President Buhari who said that his administration is laying a solid foundation for the Niger Deltans, added that the flag off of the Ogoni clean-up is a historical moment in the lives of the people and the nation.
According to him, the UNEP report indicated a timeline of 25 to 30 years to achieve a full restoration of the environment of the Niger Delta.
He revealed that he has given the approval for the constitution of the necessary frame work that will drive a hitch free implementation of the UNEP report.
He further warned that oil theft will not be tolerated, adding that the regulators in the oil industry must live up to their expectations by ensuring that companies carry out their businesses in line with universal oil sale best practices.
He said, “Today marks another milestone in the life of our administration. I recall the time as the military head of state when I visited Ogoni land.
“During that visit, I commissioned a large fish pond and planted a tree as a sign of governments concern for the environment.
“Unfortunately, since then the degradation of land, water and air has done huge damage to the fragile eco system of the Niger Delta, particularly Ogoni land.
“Oil exportation has been giving a boost to the Nigerian economy. The eco system of the Niger Delta has been severely damaged, fishing and agriculture has been badly affected. There were regulators to govern the operators of the oil industry, however, either because of lack of will or non-compliance with environmental rules and regulation, the environment was put in jeopardy.
“The various communities of the Niger Delta region, noting the negative impact of oil production and lack of consideration of best practices, quite rightly commenced the struggle for justice in the conduct of business by the oil industries operators.
“This process unfortunately led to the loss of lives and properties, international concern was raised while past government were urged to take decisive steps in addressing the damage.
“The administration of former president Olusegun Obasanjo engaged the United Nations environmental programmed to undertake the clean-up of Ogoni land.
“UNEP report detailed the number of issues for consideration while recommendation were made for its implementation.
“The report was submitted to my predecessor in office in 2011 but the implementation was not accorded the necessary support it required.
“The people of Ogoni Land continued to suffer the pollution of air, land and water.
“On Thursday, 8th January 2015, in the course of our presidential campaign, we made an unscheduled stop in Ogoni land. After listening to the address presented from the house of the Ogoni people by Senator Magnus Abe, we made a solemn commitment that in taking the opportunity, we shall implement the UNEP report of Ogoni land.
“We are determined to put right, the wrongs of the past where the people of Ogoni land were treated unfairly.
“Today, we are in Ogoni land, in the heart of the Niger Delta to fulfil our promise and to bring justice to our people.”
The Minister for the Environment, Ms Amina Mohammed, who spoke shortly before the vice president, reiterated the need for the people to support the exercise.
She said that the cleaning up of Ogoni land is now a collective responsibility of the government and the people.
Also speaking, Governor of Rivers state, Nyesom Wike said that the Rivers people have welcomed the initiative whole heartedly.
According to him, even though it had taken a long time to launch the exercise, it is never too late to save the environment.
Present at the occasion was the governor of Imo state, Rochas Okorocha, Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, Senators, Traditional rulers and chief executives of multinational companies, amongst others.