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Niger Delta: Committee on Recovery of Illegal Oil refineries inaugurated

*security operatives, federal ministries, NNPC, DPR and NOSDRA make up committee

An Inter-Ministerial Committee to tackle the illegal refining of crude oil in the Niger Delta region of the country has been inaugurated.

Members of the committee were drawn from the Ministry of Defence, the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Navy, DHQ, the NSCDC, the NNPC. the Federal Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Environment, the Department of Petroleum Resources, and the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency.

They are tasked with the major mandate of “the recovery of illegally refined petroleum products (crude oil) in the dug-up pits found around the creeks of the Niger Delta”.

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), who inaugurated the committee said the move was to block revenue leakages.

He was represented by the Solicitor General of the Federation (SGF) and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Umar Muhammed.

Mr. Muhammed said, “In line with the policy of the current administration on security and economy, as well as the preservation of the environment from negative hazards, the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, in collaboration with all stakeholders, have put in place a mechanism for effective and efficient management of illegally refined products recovered from dug-up pits found around the creeks of the Niger Delta.

This mechanism was agreed by the relevant stakeholders and submitted to the Honorable Attorney-General of the Federation who considered and approved the establishment of the Inter-Ministerial Committee for the purpose of implementing the Mechanism known as Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) For the Recovery of Illegally Refined Petroleum Products (Crude Oil) in the Dug-Up Pit found around the creeks of the Niger Delta”.

He added that the Federal Ministry of Justice would coordinate the process and the Secretariat of the Inter-Ministerial Committee.

“The responsibility of the Inter-Ministerial Committee is to detect, report, evacuate, assess and ensure transparent disposal of the product with due consideration to the environment.

The Inter-Ministerial Committee shall be guided by the SOP, developed for the project.”

The content of the SOP is drawn from the provision of the Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management Regulations 2019.

“It is my hope that the proceeds from this exercise will be a source of additional revenue for the country”, the SGF added.

ICYMI: Ogoni Cleanup: 17 contaminated sites certified cleaned – Minister

The Federal Government had on Wednesday disclosed that 17 contaminated sites have been cleaned up and certified clean on the Ogoni Clean-up exercise.

It also said that six water projects in the area have been awarded, while 400 Ogoni women have graduated in various small businesses in agriculture, aquaculture, poultry, among others.

The Minister of Environment, Mohammed Mahmoud made the disclosure while responding to a question from the State House Correspondents to give an update of Ogoni clean up.

According to Mahmud, “Just yesterday (Tuesday) we passed the budget of the Ogoni Clean-up otherwise known as HYPREP – Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project. It has gotten a lot of boost.

“We have a brand new Governing Council. We have a brand new board of trustees and we are Increasing the participation of union ordinarily they are technical support.

“And now we want to involve them even further by making them like some kind of project management consultant. And also we are looking at bringing in more indigenous people that will be part of this process, because what we realise is for any project to succeed, you must have the buy-in of the community.

“And so far, so good, I can tell you that project has moved forward, we have about 17 contaminated sites that have been cleaned up and certified, clean. And then just recently also, we awarded contracts for six water project, this water project should have been awarded earlier from the very beginning of the project. But we awarded the contract at about over N6 billion. Again, we’re working towards additional eight water projects that will be coming very soon. In fact, we just got the approval to advertise for that and also to go into the complex side.”

The minister added that the government was still working on the simple side of the project while that of the complex side will be coming soon, adding that it will include remediation of the soil and the groundwater.

“So the project is moving fast, we are catching up the little time we have lost in the last couple of years, especially because of the COVID also, but so far, so good,” he said

Mahmud further explained that, “There’s also a component of livelihood. And we have just graduated 400 Ogoni women in various small businesses like agriculture, aquaculture, poultry, and all that.

“And also youths that have been trained, as welders and plumbers, we have just also distributed 5000 need assessment forms for people to indicate their interest what they want to do so that they can be trained, and be given some kind of lovely, which is a major component of the clean up.”

In the same vein, the minister reiterated government’s commitment to end gas flaring in the country come 2030.

“This is something that other countries have done and Nigeria is looking at various ways this can be achieved. It’s still being worked on and this is part of the 2050 gas neutrality.”

The Federal Government had in May said it will this month award licences under the Nigerian Gas Flare Commercialization Programme (NGFCP) to qualified bidders as part of efforts to end gas flaring in the country and expand her gas footprint.

The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) had last year December said 45 out of 178 gas flaring sites in the country were identified for award to successful bidders.

Ogoniland: We’ve Cleaned up 15 Sites, says Minister

*FEC approves award of contracts for Rehab/Construction of 6 Water Supply Schemes in Ogoniland

The federal government yesterday put the total number of oil-polluted sites that have been cleaned up in Ogoniland in Rivers State at 15.

According to Thisday, the Minister of the Environment, Mr. Muhammad Mahmoud, while answering reporters’ questions at the end of the weekly virtual meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at the State House, in Abuja, also stated that the council approved N6.04 billion for the provision of potable water in the four local government areas of Ogoniland namely Gokana, Khana, Eleme and Tai in Rivers State.

The award of contracts for Rehabilitation/Construction of 6 Water Supply Schemes with a capacity of supplying 2400 m3 of potable water per day to Ogoni communities by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) is regarded as a major milestone in the Cleanup exercise.

He said the cleaning up of the oil pollution sites in Ogoniland was delayed by a year which informed why only 15 sites had been certified clean so far.

He said he met with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) over the matter before approaching President Muhammadu Buhari who approved the adjustment of the contract for the cleanup to commence.

He said: “We had some delays. And this was evident when we came to assess the project and we went all the way to Geneva and met United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) that designed the project, conducted the studies and make recommendations.

“When we came back, I went and explained to Mr. President that according to their record, we were behind by just one year. And we sought approval to make some changes, and he graciously approved. And we have made those changes. And between then and now, 15 sites have been cleaned up and certified clean.

So there was a delay of one year Yes, but then we have progressed. Now I can say that within the last year, we have done up to 15. So there’s a tremendous amount of progress.

“And we are trying to push to catch up with the time, still maybe behind by months. But this is a project that you want to take time to do and do it well. we are talking about the livelihood of people contaminated soil by hydrocarbons, these are cancer-causing chemicals, or we call them carcinogens.”

Mahmood stated that the local communities in Ogoniland did not help matters as they prevented government officials and contractors from accessing their areas for clean-up to progress.

He, however, added that 36 additional contracts had been awarded for the total clean-up of Ogoniland.

“So, you have these hiccups from the beginning and maybe from the beginning and also you have issues also in the area, you know because there are some issues with the land, maybe communities that are in dispute or not letting us access as they should and all that stuff. These are really some of the reasons but I wish to tell you that we have awarded additional contracts about 36

“It took us about five to six months to even access some of the sites that have already been contracted out because some communities are in dispute and will not let us go into the land even commence the cleanup until just recently, not more than three months ago, that we’re able to get them to understand we’re not there for land dispute, but for cleanup, and once you get the cleanup is done, whoever gets the land, gets a clean land,” he stated

The minister also said the FEC meeting approved N6.04 billion for the supply of water to the four local government councils that make up Ogoniland.

This, he said, was a follow-up to the cleanup of the oil polluted areas of Ogoniland.

“If you recall, the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, otherwise known as HYPREP, was commissioned in 2016 to clean Ogoniland, impacted areas of Ogoniland, based on a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

“The mandate of the project is not just cleaning up the contaminated areas by oil pollution, but also to provide drinking water and to also provide alternative livelihood for the people of that area.

“The water projects are at different prices and also different completion periods, I think ranging from six months all the way to nine months, depending on the atmosphere. It’s rehabilitation and construction and some of these will link with the River State Government’s water system,” the minister said.

Ogoni Clean-up: FG committed to UNEP report implementation, says Minister

The Honorable Minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammed Mahmood Abubakar, has reiterated President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to the full implementation of the recommendations in the United Nations Environmental Assessment Report on Ogoniland.

He said the Ogoni clean-up is a signature project, the first of its kind in Africa and the world with no existing template, while noting that HYPREP was developing one that would be used hereafter for the remediation of the rest of the Niger Delta.

Dr. Abubakar stated this during a working visit to the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) and some remediation sites across Ogoniland, and was received on arrival by the Project Coordinator of HYPREP, Dr. Marvin Dekil.

The Honorable Minister also paid a courtesy visit to His Royal Majesty King G. N. K. Gininwa in his palace where he informed the King that the Ogoni clean-up is a pet project of President Buhari’s administration which is why the President constantly makes reference to the Ogoni clean-up project.

He said the Ogoni clean-up is a signature project, the first of its kind in Africa and the world with no existing template but rather HYPREP was developing one that would be used hereafter for the remediation of the rest of the Niger Delta.

The Honorable Minister assured the people of Ogoni that the Federal Government was not just concerned about remediating the environment but is also concerned about the well-being and economic life of the people.  He said “The Federal Government is aware that there are several other challenges you are facing as a result of the pollution.  That is why even though the core mandate of HYPREP is to remediate the land, other programs have been built into the Project to address some of these challenges.”

The traditional ruler appealed to the Minister for the inclusion of the Ogonis and to ensure that the people benefit fully from the clean-up project.

The Minister also attended the sensitization of women on the Livelihood program in Tai. He expressed satisfaction with the huge turnout of women for the program adding that it goes to show the seriousness of the women to key into the training programs to create economic activities for their financial empowerment.

Addressing the crowd at the event, Dr. Abubakar urged the women, men and youths to key into the various opportunities provided through the clean-up project to empower themselves to contribute to the economic growth of the kingdom.

Dr. Abubakar urged the people of Ogoni to be patient and ensure sustained peace during and after the project.  While expressing appreciation to the Royal Father, the Council of Chiefs the Youths of Ogoni, the Women, Opinion Leaders and others for their contributions to the success of the project, he appealed to the youths to desist from carrying out illegal bunkering and other activities that may negatively affect the environment.

Speaking with journalists during the inspection of some remediation sites, the Minister said with what he has seen, he has confirmed that remediation is going on across the various sites.  He said “I can say this is a big success for this administration, the people of Ogoni that I have talked to, the youths, women, elders they are happy with this and happy with Mr. President for keeping his promise to clean up Ogoni.”

“Let me say that this is something that is serious right from the start where we even have UNEP to do the assessment and follow through to ensure compliance with the recommendations.  This shows the commitment of the government; the commitment of the President and I believe every Nigerian not just the Ogonis should give this project a chance.  From what I have seen, the HYPREP team is doing a good job.”

On the issue of water, the Minister said HYPREP has gone beyond the provision of water in tankers, but was working to ensure the provision of a sustainable source of water not just in the impacted communities but to other communities in collaboration with the Rivers State Ministry of Water Resources.

He assured the people saying “we are following all the recommendations of UNEP and we all know when you are dealing with UN you must follow everything to the standard. The government has promised to use the UNEP Report to make sure the work is done according to the recommendations.  We are here to support the President’s commitment to the clean-up project, and I urge all of you to throw your weight behind HYPREP so that the dream of the President for a clean and healthy Ogoniland will be realized.”

Briefing the Minister, the Project Coordinator went through the various activities that HYPREP has carried out since inception.  He informed him that a total of 21 sites have been handed over to 21 contractors who were currently at different levels of remediation works while a joint team of HYPREP and UN are in the field to carry out reconnaissance in preparation for the commencement of the remediation of the complex sites.

Dekil added that the project has provided opportunities for training of Ogoni youths through the Livelihood Program, technical training for Scientific Officers who are all Ogonis in Nigeria and in Switzerland while arrangements for the training of 400 Ogoni women by United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) has been concluded.

The Project Coordinator further informed the Minister that HYPREP had carried out two medical outreaches where 20,000 patients were treated, and 400 surgeries carried out.  He added that HYPREP was collaborating with Rivers State Ministries of Water Resources and Health for the provision of water and assessment of health facilities in the impacted communities in Ogoniland.