By Tanko Mohammed
The long awaited clean up work of polluted oil rich Ogoni land has begun but Nigerian government has expressed dissatisfaction with the slow pace of the project.
Minister of Environment, Mohammed Abubakar said that none of the first 21 sites slated for the remediation project has been completely cleaned up.
Abubakar stated this while briefing the media after the virtual meeting of the Federal Executive Council presided over by President Muhammad Buhari.
According to the minister, work on the 21 sites started before he assumed office in August 2019, while he handed 36 more sites for clean up since he took over.
“Unfortunately, till date, not one has been completed cleaned up and handed back to us. This is what made me to review the whole Ogoni Clean up project.
“We found out that it was not going the way it should; the timelines are not being met; I don’t think the required competence was there,” he said.
Abubakar explained that it was because of this that the Ministry of Environment wrote a memo to President Buhari, informing him of the state of the work on the Ogoni Cleanup project.
He said the president “graciously approved that the Ogoni Cleanup Project be reinvigorated, restructured, reenergized and have it work properly so that the timeline will be met.
“Right now, we cannot meet the first arrangement of five years. We have lost a year and half perhaps.”
Abubakar said the ministry was engaging the United Nations Environmental Programmes, UNEP, in technical capacity building to expedite work on the project.
He said the engagement of UNEP would also ensure that the project was handled more professionally even as they would be charged to provide technical support and capacity building for Nigerians working there.
Abubakar, who said his ministry presented its scorecard at the virtual meeting, said 775 jobs have been created in Ogoni cleanup with more on the way.
He said the ministry has planted over 17 million trees as it strives to meet the presidential mandate of planting 25million trees across Nigeria.
“Anything that we have planted from August to date is going to come into the 25million.
“We are working with the state like we said and anything that we give them that they plant in their state is counted towards ours.
“Any collaboration that they raise the seedlings in their states and plant is counted towards the 25million,” he explained.
The Minister said that the mandate to plaņt the 25 million trees would be accomplished this year, that a standing committee has been inaugurated at the ministry to work towards it.
According to Abubakar, the Ministry of the Environment was working to ensure that disposable nylons are not used in Nigeria in the next two years.
He said that plan of the ministry was to introduce reusable nylons before the outright ban on it.
“We cannot overnight ban something when you have no alternative. We have plastic recycle plant. We have one here in Karu, which I commissioned.
“We get all the used plastics, bring them in, put them on the line, process, wash and everything. Melt them, turn them into pellets.
“These pellets are finished products and can be used for interlocks. We are planning to bring another set of machines, which can melt those pellets to become raw materials.
“Melt it, blow it and produce new plastics and recycle. It goes on and on and that is what you call recycler economy.”
He said there was a Programme to train 400 women in areas agriculture, Aqua culture and poultry as way to improve the living standard of the people.
Abubakar said out of 774,000 jobs that President Buhari approved to be created, the Ministry of Environment as one of the implementing agencies is to employ 200,000 skilled and unskilled labour, another 2000 through the erosion control.