The cleaning up of Nigeria’s oil ravaged regions in the Niger Delta Region has formally been kick started by the Nigerian government in Bodo, a town in Rivers State.
The highly anticipated event was meant to be done by President Muhammadu Buhari who was eventually represented by his vice-president Prof. Yemi Osinbajo according to AFP because of security threats by militants in the region.
The vice president was assisted by Governors of two oil ravaged states of Rivers (Nyesom Wike) and Imo (Rochas Okorochas) States, the Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed and other dignitaries to unveil the plaque that signified the start of restoring the ecosystem in Ogoniland.
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A statement read on behalf of Buhari said, ‘‘The degradation of land and water has done huge damage to the ecosystem of the Niger Delta from oil exploration,’‘ taking aim at militants who have recently attacked installations, Buhari added, ‘‘destroying the Niger Delta by oil companies, militants, oil thieves, have the same end result.’‘
The clean-up estimated to cost about $1 billion would seek to sanitize the creeks, swamps, fishing grounds and mangroves that have been destroyed by oil spills from multinational giants Shell, the country’s oil producer and other private firms.
Buhari emphasized the need for regulators in the oil sector to do their job of ‘regulating’ players in the field to ensure that the damage of spills do not occur again. He bemoaned the lacked of will and willful non-compliance with laws, a situation that gave birth to spillages in the first place.
The Ogoniland situation in brief
Oil was struck in Ogoniland in 1958, three decades down the line, Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) was formed by slain activist Ken Saro Wiwa to fight neglect of the oil producing communities.
In 1993, Shell exited Ogoniland after its employee was beaten, a year later rampaging youth killed four community leaders leading to the arrest of MOSOP leaders including Saro-wiwa.
In 1995, Mr Saro-Wiwa and eight others were tried and executed; an action that received widespread condemnation of the then government.
A turning point came between 2003-2008 when international attention switched to armed conflict started by other communities in Niger Delta particular mention can be made of activities Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND)
In 2011 however, Shell accepted liability for two Ogoniland spills, the United nations Environment Program (UNEP) then carried out a study in the same year and reported that the region needed the world’s biggest clean-up operation.
2015: Shell reaches $84m (£55m) settlement with Bodo fishing community affected by two spills and today June 2, 2016; Nigeria’s vice-president launches clean-up programme after replacing the president Muhammadu Buhari for unexplained reasons.