…Says funding not issue
…As $300m in waiting for exercise
…Blames setback on COVID-19, community tussles
By Chris Ochayi
The Federal Government has reinstated its determination towards completions of the Ogoniland Clean-up project as recommended by the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP.
The Director-General of National Oil Spill Response and Detection Agency, NOSDRA, Mr. Idris Musa, who disclosed this during an interactive session with journalists in Abuja, said funding was not a problem because $300 million is waiting to be used for the exercise.
Mr. Musa explained that the $300million was part of $360million disbursed towards the Ogoniland Clean-up project by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and its joint venture partners – Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, Total Exploration and Production of Nigeria, TEPNG, and Nigerian Agip Oil Company, NAOC, was still intact.
According to him, “I happened to head operations and we really worked hard to actualize what was contained in that report.” The major work there going by the fund, the $1billion that was directed to be set aside that is $200million every year for five years.
Because the clean up itself is expected to be within a period of five years hence the release of funds on yearly basis at the rate of $200million per year will make up $1billion at the end of the 5th year or at the beginning of the 5th year, so that it will complete the exercise.
“Why, the restoration of the cleanup area that is if you have cleaned up some of those mangrove areas that have been polluted and put a seedling of mangroves it will take up to 25 to 30 years before it can grow as tall the one that withered and that is where a number of people misplaced the argument, but restoration to its the present state will take up to that, so we need to correct that assumption.”
According to Musa, “We looked at the UNEP report; UNEP report was unable to complete the entire assessment, especially one particular local government. Notwithstanding it had fact sheets that is every area that is assessed, there are fact sheets given you the details of how the pollution happened and what medium.
“When I say medium I mean is it land, swamp or water and it will tell you the area and the depth that the pollution had gone as I explained earlier in the case of the downstream.
“So we looked at the fact sheets and we classified into three areas, there were some areas that the pollution was not much, we call those ones category B. There are others where the pollution is highly critical; we put that as category A.
“Then we had a category that was X or N, neither here nor there but requires more work to be done for it to have a category whether it is high or not.
“So we started with the low hanging fruits areas that were less polluted because areas that were heavily polluted were within the water bodies where it was easier for people to do antennary refining it was easier for people to tap into pipelines.”
The NOSDRA DG explained further that, “Those ones were put as category A and the impact there had gone as far down as hitting the groundwater apart from other areas in Eleme Local Government Area which essentially was polluted by petroleum products where UNEP said the content of benzene in the water there was about 900 times world health organizations standard.
“So we now looked at this, there were 68 fact sheets we were able to under my leadership within two years to bring out 24 of the 68 fact sheets we were able also to look at about 6 other sheets that had almost nothing.
“In other words add 24+6 that gives you 30, we are almost half of what was actually done by UNEP and handed over as fact sheets and from what we did we were able to get out first 21 lots those are the 21 that are working right now.
“Then the second batch of that first phase another set of 35, 35+21 will give you 56 altogether from this 35 there are seven of such, remember I said some places were neither here nor there.
“When we got to some places we saw that in the course of our delineation we discovered that this side that was in b will have to go to A where we will have to do more work, we also added that to batch 2 of phase 1.
“So right now the 35 sites that are supposed to have begun were unable to Begin because just about the time we were mobilizing to the site was when the lockdown started.”
On the impact of COVID-19 on the exercise, he said, “And remember even in Rivers State, movement is highly restricted so if you go to the site you have to get people to work with you to site and the protocol to COVID-19 matter will not even allow such a thing.
“Even all over the world construction workers were asked to stay home. That is what really slowed down the tempo of activities in Ogoni land but I assure you that 56 contracts have been issued under the clean up of Ogoni land so it’s now working hard to get it done.
“Then the second thing that can impede the progress of work is funding, right now there is at least $300 million waiting in the coffer of the Board of Trustees waiting to be used for the exercise.
“So if money is there where the politics is, two things are just responsible, COVID-19 lockdown on one hand and there were few sites where there were delays in commencement because of community tussling.”