Home to 20 million people and 40 different ethnic groups, this floodplain makes up 7.5% of Nigeria’s total land mass. It is the largest wetland and maintains the third-largest drainage basin in Africa. The Delta’s environment can be broken down into four ecological zones: coastal barrier islands, mangrove swamp forests, freshwater swamps, and lowland rainforests. For decades, oil extraction in the Niger Delta has led to wide-scale contamination of the environment. However the full extent and intensity of this contamination was never clear to authorities and the public.
The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) in its desire to internally reconcile the Ogoni people and ensure the clean-up and remediation of past oil impacted sites in Ogoniland, set up a Presidential Implementation Committee (PIC) in July 2006 headed by Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah. In view of its competence and experience in conflict and disaster management, as well as its capabilities for unbiased monitoring as a pre-requisite for clean-up and remediation work, the President Obasanjo Administration commissioned the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to carry out an Environmental Assessment Study of the oil impacted sites in Ogoniland. UNEP eventually commenced the Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland, which lasted from 2009-2011.
The last administration, in a bid to implement the UNEP report established the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) as a vehicle for the Ogoniland and other impacted areas in the Niger Delta region. A gazette to this effect was to put in place in July, 2014. Further to the need for extensive consultation with all relevant stakeholders, preliminary meetings were held in September and October, 2014 in Abuja, Nigeria. This was followed by meeting of stakeholders in Geneva, Switzerland in November, 2014 and another meeting in Abuja, Nigeria on 23rd June, 2015 and 28th – 29th July, 2015.
These meetings culminated in the decision to review the HYPREP Extra-ordinary Gazette No.65 Volume 101 of July 2014 to prevent its interference with the statutory duties of already existing agencies. The HYPREP Gazette was reviewed to make the institutional structure more inclusive and transparent in its assigned roles and responsibilities, and the reviewed Gazette was forwarded to the Federal Executive Council for consideration and approval. The reviewed Gazette provided the institutional framework needed to drive the process, namely, the HYPREP Governing Council, the Board of Trustees and the Project Coordinator. From January to May, 2016, the Federal Ministry of Environment convened several meetings with key stakeholders including the Special Adviser in charge of the Amnesty Programme to ensure consideration and inclusiveness. The Ministry also consulted other stakeholders including the Paramount Ruler and other Traditional Rulers in Ogoniland and some oil impacted communities, the International Oil Companies (IOCs), the Niger Delta States, Civil Society Organisations, and Security Organisations.
A Stakeholders’ Sensitization Meeting was held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on Thursday 28th April, 2016. The meeting further secured the commitment of the people of Ogoniland and other stakeholders in the support of the clean-up project as well as an agreement of no re-pollution after clean-up. At the meeting, the Honourable Minister of Environment promised to constitute four (4) Adhoc Committees to commence preparation for activities on the clean-up project. Hon. Minister of Environment inaugurated these committees and Task Team on the 24th May 2016.
President Muhammadu Buhari launched the clean-up of Ogoniland on June 2nd 2016 in Bodo, Rivers State which has been ravaged by devastating oil spillage in the last 10 years, destroying farmlands, aquatic life, and unleashing monumental and multiple forms of land, air and water pollutions in the process.