The Federal Government will begin the clean up of Ogoniland oil spill in 2017 with an initial $200 million fund.
Nigeria’s Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, confirmed the new date, which is coming four months after Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo set in motion a $1 billion clean up and restoration programme of Ogoniland.
Speaking to MetroBusinessnews in an exclusive interview, Mohammed said $200 million would be released over five consecutive years to execute the project.
“We have got a take-off funding for 10 million dollars this year, which we would use to put some projects in place. Next year, we will really take-off with the $200 million a year that we will have for the next five years,” Mohammed said in an interview with BusinessDAY.
In June, Nigeria launched the $1 Billion Ogoniland Clean up and Restoration Programme, with authorities saying they were delivering on President Buhari’s key election promise.
Mohammed in August announced a 13-member Governing Council and 10-member Board of Trustees for the clean up, saying that the structures would ensure inclusiveness, accountability, transparency and sustainability of the exercise, while also acknowledging wide concerns raised by stakeholders on the perceived slow pace of the clean up.
Giving an update on the exercise, the minister said governance structures are now in place with a council and a board of trustees, which will sit when the trust fund is fully operational.
The 2011 United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report on the restoration and clean up of Ogoniland had recommended the establishment of an Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Fund with an initial capitalisation of $1 billion to cover the clean-up cost.
The UN report estimated that the cleanup of Ogoniland could take up to 30 years with the initial remediation taking five years and the restoration another 25 years.
The report had also found severe and widespread contamination of soil and ground water across Ogoniland, which it said could need a length of time to clear up and allow for a full restoration of the ecosytem. This may be the biggest clean up ever, according to experts.
But as the government continues in dialogue efforts with militants in the Niger Delta, members of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) blew up a Chevron Corporation export pipeline at Escravos in Warri, Delta State, further complicating the efforts to clean up the environment.
The attack is the first since the militant group announced a ceasefire in August, in readiness to dialogue with the Nigerian Government.
The minister said the continued vandalism violates the polluters pay principle of the country and those living in those areas will pay one way or the other, for the pollution caused by militants, who refused to come to the table in resolving the issues.
But Mohammaed warned that the renewed cases of vandalism and pipeline attacks are creating a new dimension of pollution that International Oil Companies may not be responsible for.
“We have a polluters pay principle in Nigeria. So, oil companies will pay for the damage they do to our environment. But what do I say when my own people do it, who then pays for that?, she asked.
The minister said, “I think they will pay, they will pay in the long run because there would be no opportunity in an environment that is full of oil. Oil spills, the pollution, you cannot drink the water, you cannot farm, you are ruining your future”
While dialogue remains the best option, Mohammed said any aggrieved person should come to the table and talk about it, or face the consequence of committing a crime in blowing up pipelines.
“My firm belief is that if you have a grievance, you come to the table and talk about it, if you commit a crime then you will go to jail.
“I do not have any grey area there. For me it is black and white because not only are you blowing up the economy, you are blowing up your environment and the environment is going to take decades to clean up and who is going to have interest in you when you are doing it yourself? She asked.
Young people must own their environment, local government, villages, states and come to the table lets negotiate and really talk about the opportunities for them she added.
If we can talk to our young people and say look, there is no future in damaging your own environment thinking that you can get a voice on the table, there is no voice on the table for those who commit crimes, Mohammed said.