President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday said the cleanup of Ogoniland and other oil-impacted communities which his administration started in Bodo, Rivers State on June 2 would last 20 years.
Buhari said this while inaugurating the Governing Council and the Board of Trustees of the Trust Fund for the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project for the Implementation of the UNEP Report at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said, “The clean-up exercise is expected to go on for two decades. The first five years will address emergency response measures and remediation while the subsequent years will look to restore the ecosystems in the Delta.
“The governance framework we lay today, following extensive consultations, will form the bedrock for sustainability for years to come.
“Together we will be able to transform what is today a tragic tale of desolation and destruction to one of restoration and opportunity for the coming generations. The expertise and technology exist to make this a reality.
“In the end, this project will serve as the ‘gold standard’ for the cleanup of similar pollution in other parts of the Niger Delta, and the world at large.”
Buhari called on the local communities, especially the youth, to work with the government in ensuring the security of the projects and persons implementing them.
He also urged members of the BOT and Governing Council to ensure the highest standard of transparency and accountability in the task.
He said measures were being put in place to ensure that the funds devoted for the project are used only for the intended purpose.
The President said, “Since the time of flag-off, considerable effort has been expended to create a robust mechanism for implementing the project in the long term.
“The Governing Council and Board of Trustees, which are being inaugurated today (Thursday) jointly form an essential part of the governance framework.
“In addition to the management and administration structure, other systems and controls are being put in place to ensure that the funds devoted for this project are used only for the intended purpose.
“Indeed, a project of this magnitude requires extensive planning, scientific analysis, community involvement, and genuine partnerships. As a result, it will require patience and understanding of the key stakeholders as we move forward.
“It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the project remains on course, as we face the challenges of high expectations and the current conflict in the Niger Delta.”
The Chairman of the BOT, Mr. Olawale Edun, promised on behalf of others that they would manage the funds meant for the project efficiently and transparently.
He expressed the belief that the President would continue to support them to succeed in their task.
A member of the BOT, Senator Magnus Abe, told State House correspondents that with the inauguration, the clean-up had started in earnest.
Abe noted that the UNEP report specified $1bn for the exercise and Shell had announced since the report was released that money was available.
He however said the money might not be enough and that was why Edun was brought in as the chairman to give confidence to the investors and donors that any fund that is brought out would be well utilised.