*Hands over 7 remediated sites to NOSDRA
By Gbenga Abulude (Politics and General Desk)
The Federal Government has announced its decision to commence what it described as the restoration of mangrove forest and ecosystem in the Niger Delta region. Minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammad Abubakar made this known at a meeting with stakeholders in the Niger Delta in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital
The mangrove in Niger Delta region of Nigeria is made up of extensive chains of forests in the coastal region of the Delta. The Niger Delta region is regarded as one of the most ecologically sensitive forest regions in the world.
The environment minister revealed that his ministry was already holding discussions with key stakeholders in the Niger Delta region on the feasibility of designing a pragmatic blueprint for alternative ways of preserving, conserving and restoring the mangrove in the Delta region.
The minister who reiterated the importance of the mangrove forest said its destruction was catastrophic to the economy of the nation now and in the future. According to him, the outcome of “the meeting in Port Harcourt was to begin with short term goals of seeking creative means of mobilizing people to refrain from destroying the mangrove”.
Abubakar also revealed that the federal government has handed over 7 remediated sites under the determined and designated Ogoni clean-up project to the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, (NOSDRA) for appropriate verification, determination and certification.
The minister who was at the meeting along with Mrs. Sharon Ikeazor, the Minister of State for Environment, said: “We had a meeting with groups, professionals, academicians for the purpose of devising means of restoring mangrove in the Niger Delta region.”
He added: “Destruction of these special plants can bring about a lot of catastrophic issues to the economy. We are focused on starting with short term goals, thinking of ways to look for alternatives so that people will stay away from the mangrove.”
The minister who reiterated federal government’s commitment to the Ogoni clean-up project pledged to build upon what he called on-going progress of the clean-up, stressing that the federal government was committed to adhering to the recommendations of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report.
It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had announced the Ogoni clean up exercise in 2016. The then Minister of Environment, Mrs Amina Muhammed in June 2016 had thereafter announced the kick-off of Ogoni clean-up programme in adherence to the United Nations Environment Programme Report (UNEP) protocols and guidelines.
The minister had stated that the programme would be driven by all stakeholders in the region. This led to the creation of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) with the aim of remediating the environment and restoring the livelihood of the people.
HYPREP commenced preliminary remediation activities in early 2018, almost eight years after the UNEP report was submitted. Since then there has been mixed reactions as some activists kicked against what they described as unacceptable poor performance of HYPREP. Many environmentalists and stakeholders in the Niger Delta have been insistent on their demand for a full-scale audit of the Ogoni-clean up project to ascertain if it meets the set framework, UNEP protocols and international standards.