President Mohammadu Buhari Thursday inaugurated the governing council and board of trustees for the hydrocarbon pollution remediation project of Ogoniland.
Government had initiated the Ogoni clean up process two months ago in Rivers State.
The 30-member governing council has the Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, as the chairperson while Mr Wale Edun, former Finance Commissioner in Lagos State is the chairman.
Speaking at the ceremony, President Buhari said the clean up exercise would alleviate the suffering of the communities impacted by decades of oil exploration. He charged committee members to ensure transparency and accountability in the management of the $1 billion to be contributed to the international oil companies.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) had on August 4, 2011, submitted a report containing extensive assessment of Ogoniland. The report, which was commissioned by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, documented the problems on ground and proffered remedial short and long term recommendations.
Buhari said the exercise would take 20 years.
“Five years on, the project is yet to properly take off. It would appear to have experienced a series of false starts, while the local communities continue to suffer from the problem, which has existed long before the report. This all adds to the picture described in the UNEP report as ‘a landscape characterised by a lack of trust, paralysis and blame.
“While it has been five years since the UNEP report, it has taken only two months since this administration kicked off the project, and considerable effort has been expended to create a robust mechanism for implementing the project in the long term.
“The Governing Council and the Board of Trustees, which are being inaugurated today 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 to this project are used only for the intended purpose,” he said.
The first five years of the exercise would focus on remediation and emergency response while subsequent years would be dedicated to restoration of the ecosystem of the area.
Managing Director of the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Mr. Osagie Okunbor, said with the governance structure in place the oil companies would play their part in the clean up exercise.