Government, communities and oil industry commit to implementing UNEP report recommendations
India CSR News Network
Port Harcourt: Nigerian Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, today set in motion a $1 billion clean-up and restoration programme of the Ogoniland region in the Niger Delta, announcing that financial and legislative frameworks had been put in place to begin implementing recommendations made by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Speaking at an event in Port Harcourt attended by thousands, including international football star Joseph Yobo and Miss Nigeria Pamela Lessi, the Vice President said the Nigerian government was now delivering on what was one of President Buhari’s key election promises.
UNEP’s Executive Director Achim Steiner travelled to Port Harcourt to join Vice President Osinbajo and other dignitaries for the launch ceremony.
The implementation will be based on recommendations from a 2011 UNEP report, commissioned by the Nigerian government, on the impact of oil extraction in Ogoniland. The report found severe and widespread contamination of soil and ground water across Ogoniland. In a number of locations public health was severely threatened by contaminated drinking water and carcinogens.
Delta ecosystems such as mangroves had been utterly devastated. The report also found that institutional control measures in place both in the oil industry and the Government were not implemented adequately. The report proposed the establishment of a Restoration Authority with an explicit mandate to clean up Ogoniland and restore the ecosystems. The report also recommended the establishment of an Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Fund with an initial capitalization of 1 billion dollars to cover the clean-up costs.
Steiner said, “The people of Ogoniland have paid a high price for the success of Nigeria’s oil industry, enduring a toxic and polluted environment for decades. Today marks a historic step toward improving the situation of the Ogoni people, who have paid this high price for too long. A clean-up and restoration effort like this cannot happen overnight, but I am hopeful that the cooperation between the Government of Nigeria, oil companies and communities will result in an environmental restoration that benefits both ecosystems and the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta. UNEP has provided the scientific basis for this work, and will continue to offer its technical expertise as needed to help ensure a positive result for all involved.”
Requested by the Federal Government of Nigeria, UNEP’s Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland was released in August 2011. It examined over the course of two years the environmental impact of oil industry operations in the area since the late 1950s. It found that oil contamination in Ogoniland is extensive and is having a grave impact on the environment, with pollution penetrating further and deeper than previously thought.
UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, who will be stepping down from his position this month, was joined by Erik Solheim, UNEP’s incoming Executive Director. Since January 2013, Mr Solheim has been UNEP’s Special Envoy to Ogoniland, supporting negotiations between the Ogoni people, the Nigerian Government and oil companies. His role as UNEP’s future Executive Director will ensure UNEP’s continuity in supporting the programme.
“The task to clean up Ogoniland will neither be easy nor fast, but it needs to be done,” Solheim said. “If we succeed here, it will demonstrate that degraded environments can be restored, sending a signal to many other communities around the world that peaceful co-operation can lead to positive outcomes.”
The clean-up is vital for the future of the region. It will help create new livelihoods, establish old livelihoods and change the lives of a million people. It will also establish a new model for working towards sustainable development, even in the most challenging of environments.
The environmental restoration of Ogoniland is likely to be the world’s most wide-ranging and long-term oil clean up exercise ever undertaken. Experts suggest that it may take up to 25 years until ecosystems are fully restored.
UNEP’s Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland is available online at: www.unep.org/nigeria. Further information, including site-specific fact sheets about 67 of the contaminated sites studied, is also available at this website.