President Muhammadu Buhari has inaugurated the Governing Council and the Board of Trustees of the Trust Fund for the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) for the Implementation of the United Nations Environmental Report (UNEP) Report on Ogoniland.
Buhari at the ceremony at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, which came two months after the groundbreaking ceremony to kick-start the cleaning process, said it was a huge project and needed thorough planing and the involvement of the community, and called for patience and understanding of the people.
He said, “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 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 clean-up of similar pollution in other parts of the Niger Delta, and the world at large.”
President Buhari called on local communities who he observed were the direct beneficiaries of the project to ensure its security and that of the persons implementing it.
He said, “I use this opportunity, through you, to call upon the Local Communities especially our youth, who will be the direct beneficiaries of this effort, to work with us in ensuring the security of the projects and persons implementing them.
“Even more so, that we prevent the recontamination of the polluted sites in Ogoniland.”
While thanking the appointees for accepting the responsibility, he urged them to give their utmost commitment to ensuring the highest standard of transparency and accountability in “this important task.”
The inauguration came exactly five years to the day the UNEP submitted an extensive Report on its environmental assessment of Ogoniland.
Buhari recalled that the report was commissioned by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, which he said did not only document the problems that existed, but also contained recommendations on how they can be addressed, both in the short term and in the long term.
He said, “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 adds to the picture described in the UNEP Report as ‘a landscape characterized by a lack of trust, paralysis and blame.’
“I am pleased to note that while it has been five years since the UNEP Report, it has taken only two months since this Administration flagged off the Project.
“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 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.”
Managing Director of Shell Development Company of Nigeria, Osagie Okunbor, told State House correspondents that the counterpart funding will come from the JVC.
He said, “The funding the bulk of which is going to be contributed by the SPDC JV and for clarity, the SPDC JV has Shell, Total, Agip and NNPC, so we would be contributing the bulk of this and over the five year period that we expect this to last before we go into the phase of restoration to ensure that the funds based on work programme that we approve are readily available.
“The bulk of the funding is going to come from the SPDC JV which has as a 55 per cent partner the NNPC, so you have to infer that government is in there. But the whole process of our running our business on a day to day basis as Shell SPDC JV involves constant and revision within the
JV, so to that extent you have to see the NNPC element of the JV as the government side”
The constitution and inauguration of the governing board and board of trustees of the $1billion fund is coming on the heels of conflicting responses on the sources of government’s part of the funding, as
the IOCs said they were awaiting a proper governance structure for the fund by the Nigerian government.
the Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, who is also the chairman of the governing council hinted that the clean up may not fully take off in another six months, as more work has to be done in
clearly articulating policies and strategies that would ensure the smooth running of the cleanup which would run for decades adding that with all now in place “the project will not want for resources to clean up the Niger Delta”
She said government monitoring and evaluation on the project would be
handled mostly by the media and the Civil Society Organisations for proper feedback on performance and accountability.
The Board of Trustees which include 12 members would meet twice a year while the 13 member Governing Council will meet four times a year, the minister said.
Chairman BoT Olawale Edun said the job of the board is to handle any funds provided for the clean up as well as other other funds raised and to ensue that the funds are available whenever it is needed.
“Our role is to make sure that at every instance and stage, once there is a project that is identified and ready to be implemented according to world best practices our job is to make sure that the funding is there. We would be working with the contributors and providers of the
funds just to make sure that no matter the constraints we always find a away to provide funds so that the clean up is not held up by lack of funds by so called processes” he said.
Members of the Governing Council include minister of environment as Chairman, Minister of National Planning, Udoma Udoma, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Pastor Usani Usani, Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)
Nsima Ekere, Managing Director SPDC, Osagie Okunbor amongst others.
Representatives of Ogoni Stakeholders on the Council include Pyagbara Legborsi, Ben Naneen and two alternatives.
Members of the BoT include Wale Edun as Chairman, the Minister of Finance Kemi Adeosun, Minister of state for environment Ibrahim Jibril, Minister of State Petroleum. Representatives of IOCs include Osagie Okunbor, Insula Massimo and Alexis Bobk.
The Ogoni stakeholders, other communities in the Niger Delta, NGOs as well as the UNEP are also represented on the board. A legal adviser would be appointed by the governing council in due course.