President Muhammadu Buhari has flagged off the construction of the Ogoni Power Project, expressing confidence that the project upon completion will spur socio-economic development of Ogoniland, create job opportunities for artisans and enhance entrepreneurial growth.
The President participated virtually in the groundbreaking of the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Restoration and the Ogoni 100 Bed Specialist Hospital, performed on his behalf by the Minister of Environment, Mohammed Abdullahi at Wiiya Akara, Khana Local Government Area, Rivers State, on Friday.
On the power project, the President noted that it will bring sustainability to the Potable Water Schemes, Livelihood Programme, Centre of Excellence for Environmental Restoration, and the Specialist Hospital projects being undertaken by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project.
On the benefits of the Ogoni Specialist Hospital, the President said it would bring succour to those who over time have been exposed to hydrocarbon pollution and other ailments associated with environmental pollution in the community.
He urged the Ogoni community to cooperate with the Federal Ministry of Environment, HYPREP and the companies handling the execution of the projects.
He added that the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Restoration, on whose site the groundbreaking ceremony was held, will provide capacity and research opportunities to scholars within Nigeria and around the world on environmental remediation.
‘‘It will initiate studies on home grown methods and approaches to addressing oil pollution in the Niger Delta and other parts of the country, to Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.
‘‘It is instructive to know that Ogoni clean-up is not the only project being undertaken by this administration to give the people a sense of belonging in national affairs.
‘‘This administration is constructing the Bodo/Bonny Road -a multi-billion-naira project to provide a link road to Bonny Island – host to the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Plant.
‘‘This all-important economic road passes through the heart of Ogoniland and the benefits it will bring to the local economy will be considerable,’’ he said.
The President also disclosed that approvals for the rehabilitation of the Ogoni axis of the East/West Road which the Bodo/Bonny Road opens into and serves as the gateway to the Oil and Gas Free Zone, Onne.
‘‘Today is special and dear to me as it reminds me of the promise I made to the Ogoni people when I came here to campaign in 2015 for the Presidential election that saw my emergence as the President of our great nation, Nigeria.
‘‘I pledged to implement the United Nations Environment Programme Report on the Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland which was submitted to the Federal Government four years earlier if elected as the President.
‘‘It was a solemn pledge to my fellow citizens of Ogoni that it deserves urgent economic, social and infrastructural intervention required for a decent living.
‘‘That assurance was redeemed on 2nd June 2016 when I flagged off the Ogoniland clean-up project at the Patrick waterfront in Bodo, Gokana Local Government Area.
‘‘The Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project was established to oversee the operations of the clean-up as well as the constitution of the Governing Council, the Board of Trustees, and the Project Coordination Office to coordinate its implementation.
“I am glad the implementation is progressing as evident in several critical awarded projects that impact on the livelihoods of the Ogoni people,’’ he said.
President Buhari told the gathering that contracts have been approved for the next phase of remediation of sites (medium risk sites), the training of five thousand Ogoni people in sustainable livelihood skills and the engagement of five hundred Ogoni youths as environmental vanguards.
The President commended the Minister of Environment his team at the Ministry and HYPREP for their doggedness in delivering on his instruction to as a matter of priority, deliver on the Ogoni clean-up and other key objectives of the Ministry including biodiversity and wildlife conservation, land remediation, upland and coastal erosion control.
He also applauded Governor Wike for his support to Federal Government’s developmental initiatives and particularly for the relative peace in Ogoni Land and Rivers State in general.
‘‘Your Excellency and Royal Highnesses, it is my desire that you will continue to support this administration and the incoming administration led by His Excellency Bola Ahmed Tinubu who I am confident will consolidate the gains achieved from this project.
‘‘It is my hope that you will support the implementation of the project and utilize the benefits for the present and future generations of Ogoniland,’’ he said.
HRM Mene (Dr) Suanu Timothy Yormaadam Baridam Gbenemene, Kasimene Bangha VII of Ogoniland, on behalf of the Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers, presented a chieftaincy title, Gbene of Ogoni land (Mighty Eagle of Ogoni land), to President Buhari.
The title was received on behalf of the President by the Minister.
The Minister of Environment used the occasion to provide an update on the modest progress being made in the restoration of oil impacted sites, which is the core mandate of HYPREP.
‘‘Twenty out of the 65 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) sites have been remediated to date. HYPREP recently awarded contracts for additional 17 sites and contractors were taken to the sites yesterday,’’ he said.
Abdullahi stated that six potable water schemes spread through the four LGAs of Ogoni land are at various stages of completion.
In his remarks, Mike Nweielghi, Chairman Board of Trustees, Ogoni Trust Fund pledged that Ogoni people will provide the necessary support and conducive atmosphere to the contractors to deliver on the projects.
He thanked the President for touching the lives of Ogoni people with his commitment to the clean-up exercise, following the recommendations of the UNEP report.
“As an Ogoniman, I am grateful that your administration has touched the lives of my people and their environment through the commencement of work at the specialist hospital, Centre of Excellence for environmental restoration and Ogoni power project,’’ he said.
He also lauded the President for considering Ogoni people worthy of piloting the affairs of the HYPREP projects, pledging prudent and transparent management of the funds.
In addition to the initial $1billion released for the Ogoni clean-up by the joint venture partners, Nweielghi, on behalf of the Board, appealed for more funds, saying current inflationary trends have made the initial funds insufficient.
The Project Coordinator, HYPREP, Giadom Dumbari, described the projects as major highpoints of the Buhari administration in addressing the challenges of the Niger Delta, particularly the plight of the Ogoni people.
He explained that the specialist hospital is strategically located to service Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States and other surrounding communities.
Dumbari pledged that the project would be delivered on target, time and cost.