The launch of the Niger delta Clean up of the oil-devastated region of Ogoni in Rivers State – Nigeria formally holds today.
This is a great signal of the government’s commitment to the oil region after many years of enduring oil spills, bad water and dwindling marine life.
Though President Muhammed Buhari was expected to have personally seen to the ceremony but cancelled his trip this morning leaving his Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to represent him. So far no reason has been given for his absence. Although there are speculations that it might be related to the wave of militant attacks that have plagued the oil-producing Niger Delta in recent weeks.
In Nigeria, oil was reportedly first discovered in Bayelsa State, in the Niger Delta, in 1956. According to the Organization of the Petroleum Export Countries (OPEC), Nigeria currently has the world’s tenth largest crude oil reserves and is the world’s thirteenth-largest producer of crude oil.
While oil exploration and production in the Niger Delta began in the late 1950s, operations were suspended in Ogoniland in the early 1990s due to disruptions from local public unrest. The oilfields and installations have since largely remained dormant. However, major oil pipelines still cross through Ogoniland and oil spills continue to affect the region, due to such factors as a lack of maintenance and vandalism to oil infrastructure and facilities.
Environmental contamination in Ogoniland from oil spills remains untreated, or only partially re-mediated, today.
The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), at the request of the federal government, had conducted an independent assessment of the affected communities and made recommendations for re-mediation.
The UNEP report was accepted by many residents of the Ogoni community and government decided to use the report as a starting point in the clean-up process.
According to the UNEP report, there are over 200 oil-impacted locations across Ogoni land and the full environmental restoration of the community will take between 25 and 30 years.
The extensive nature of this exercise goes to show that today is significant only in its meaning but the real work begins from tomorrow and the next and the rest of the days leading to the completion of this project. So what next after the parading and ribbon cutting? What next after the speeches and promises? What next after the dignitaries all go home? Then the real exercise begin…we are just not sure what that will look like. We can only hope it looks like what has been promised and leads to what is desired. A clean Niger Delta.