President Muhammadu Buhari has launched three projects in Ogoniland aimed at boosting socio-economic development and job creation in the area. The projects include the Ogoni Power Project, the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Restoration and the 100-bed Ogoni Specialist Hospital, all undertaken by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP).
The president expressed confidence that the projects will create job opportunities for artisans and enhance entrepreneurial growth in Ogoniland and remotely participated in the ground-breaking ceremony held at Wiiya Akara, Khana local government area (LGA), Rivers State, over the weekend.
According to President Buhari, the Ogoni Power Project will bring sustainability to the potable water schemes, livelihood programme, Centre of Excellence for Environmental Restoration and specialist hospital projects, which will benefit the Ogoni community. Also, the President highlighted that the Ogoni Specialist Hospital will provide succour to those who have been exposed to hydrocarbon pollution and other ailments associated with the environmental pollution in the community.
The president urged the Ogoni community to cooperate with the Federal Ministry of Environment, HYPREP and the companies responsible for the execution of the projects. He further stated that the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Restoration will provide capacity and research opportunities to scholars within Nigeria and around the world on environmental remediation.
President Buhari commended the Minister of Environment, his team at the ministry and HYPREP for their commitment to delivering on the Ogoni clean-up project and other key objectives of the ministry, including biodiversity and wildlife conservation, land remediation, upland, and coastal erosion control. He also applauded Governor Wike for his support of the Federal Government’s developmental initiatives and for maintaining relative peace in Ogoni Land and Rivers State in general.
The president disclosed that contracts have been approved for the next phase of remediation of sites (medium-risk sites), the training of 5000 Ogoni people in sustainable livelihood skills and the engagement of 500 Ogoni youths as environmental vanguards.
Furthermore, the president stated that the Bodo/Bonny Road project, a multi-billion-naira project that will provide a link road to Bonny Island -host to the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Plant – is currently under construction. The road passes through the heart of Ogoniland and the benefits it will bring to the local economy will be significant. The President also revealed that approvals have been granted for the rehabilitation of the Ogoni axis of the East/West Road which the Bodo/Bonny Road opens into and serves as the gateway to the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone.
President Buhari pledged to implement the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Report on the Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland, which was submitted to the Federal Government four years earlier. He said that the HYPREP was established to oversee the operations of the clean-up as well as the constitution of the governing council, the board of trustees and the project coordination office to coordinate its implementation. He expressed his pleasure that the implementation is progressing as evidenced in the various critical awarded projects that impact the livelihoods of the Ogoni people.
At the ceremony, Buhari was awarded the chieftaincy title of Gbene of Ogoniland (Mighty Eagle of Ogoni land) by the Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers, presented by HRM Mene (Dr) Suanu Timothy Yormaadam Baridam Gbenemene, Kasimene Bangha VII of Ogoniland. The title was received on behalf of the President by the Minister of Environment, who used the occasion to provide an update on the progress made in the restoration of oil-impacted sites in Ogoniland.
According to the senior special assistant to the president on media & publicity, Garba Shehu the Minister of Environment disclosed that 20 of the 65 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) sites have been remediated to date and that contracts for an additional 17 sites have recently been awarded. Also, the minister revealed that six potable water schemes spread throughout the four LGAs of Ogoniland are at various stages of completion.
Chairman of the board of trustees, Ogoni Trust Fund, Mike Nweielghi pledged the necessary support and conducive atmosphere to the contractors to deliver on the projects. He thanked the President for his commitment to the clean-up exercise and for considering the Ogoni people worthy of piloting the affairs of the HYPREP.
In addition to the initial $1 billion released for the Ogoni clean-up by the joint venture partners, Nweielghi appealed for more funds, saying that current inflationary trends have made the initial funds insufficient.
The project coordinator of HYPREP, Dr. Giadom Dumbari described the specialist hospital, Centre of Excellence for Environmental Restoration and Ogoni Power Project as major highpoints of the Buhari administration in addressing the challenges of the Niger Delta, particularly the plight of the Ogoni people. Dumbari pledged that the project would be delivered on target, on time and within cost.
Overall, the award of the chieftaincy title and the progress being made in the restoration of oil-impacted sites in Ogoni land shows the commitment of the Buhari administration to addressing the challenges faced by the Niger Delta and the Ogoni people. The ongoing projects in the area will not only improve the environment but also provide access to potable water and healthcare for the people of Ogoni land.