By Ismaila Chafe, Abuja.
The Minister of Environment, Mohammed Abdullahi, has blamed some civil society organisations (CSOs) and individuals in Rivers State of stalling Ogoni cleanup through unnecessary litigations.
Abdullahi made the declaration on Wednesday in Abuja, while fielding questions from correspondents at the end of the meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The minister was reacting to allegations by the Movement for Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) against the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), charged with executing the Ogoni cleanup in Rivers, of slow pace of work as well as embezzlement.
He said: “On the agitation by MOSOP that accuses HYPREP of slow implementation projects, the Federal Government is as concerned as MOSOP, in terms of the seeming slow pace of the project execution.
“But in most cases, the Federal Government is not the direct cause. Sometimes, you find that individuals and CSOs within Ogoniland go to court to obtain one sort of order or another against HYPREP from proceeding with some processes.
“So, it has hampered the process, as captured in PPP. As we speak now, there’s a group called ‘the Good Conscience” that has gone to court to restrain the Federal Government from continuing with those water projects.”
On the allegation of embezzlement against HYPREP, the minister said: “To the best of my knowledge, some of these accusations, sometimes, are not very objective. In most cases, they are propelled by very ulterior motives to distract HYPREP.
“However, we’re open to looking into any allegation that has been made against any of our partners in the ministry.
“So, if there are concrete evidences that show indeed there are embezzlements, of course, you and I know that this President will never take lightly to those kinds of allegations and we will be able to handle them decisively.”
On the funding arrangement to finance the remediation projects and whether or not the IOCs were involved in the contributions, Abdullahi said:
“Yes, they are. There is a dedicated fund, being superintended by the Ogoni Trust Fund, which essentially has been pooled together by the IOCs to actually finance the remediation projects under the principle of ‘the polluter pays’.
“So, yes, there is a dedicated fund, it is available. Recently, the president approved what we call the cash calls to finance these projects, in line with the budget as approved by the Governing Council of HYPREP.”
The minister also revealed that the Federal Executive Council approved N123.4 billion for remediation and the execution of a power project in Ogoniland, Rivers.
Abdullahi said: “On behalf of the Ministry of Environment, I presented two memos to do with remediation and the power project in Ogoniland.
“These two projects actually resonate with the objective of the Nigerian government and the United Nations’ Environment Programme of providing succour to the Ogoni people, particularly in the areas of livelihood and remediation.
“The first memo is on the remediation of simple hydrocarbon-impacted sites in Ogoniland, to be carried out by 35 different contractors, with a completion period of 24 months.
“The cumulative value of the contract is N95, 908, 284, 450.91 billion.
“The second memo, which also touches on the livelihood of the Ogoni people, is the construction of 16 kilometres of 132 KV transmission lines and 260 MVA Power Substations in the Phase I of the Ogoni Power Project.”
He said that the council approved N27, 585, 539, 410.13 for the project, which had a completion period of 12 months.
The Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo, who also spoke on the status of the dredging of the Calabar channel, blamed litigation for stalling the project.
He, however, revealed that Buhari had directed his ministry and the Ministry of Justice to see to it that the issues were resolved amicably.
Sambo said: “By way of background, I would like to state that the Calabar Channel Management is part and parcel of the other channel managements that had existed between the Nigerian Ports Authority and its joint venture partners.
“Namely: The Lagos Channel Management, The Port Harcourt Bonny Channel Management, otherwise called BCCI, Bonny Channel Company Limited and the JV with the Niger Global in respect to Calabar Channel.
“Now, you are aware that about these three, NPA had encountered difficulties with the JV partnership, with respect to the Calabar channel dredging.
“This has been as a result of several litigations from both sides.’’
On the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri Eastern Rail Line, Sambo said that the inability of the Federal Government to secure foreign loans was frustrating the completion of the project.
According to him, completion of rail project during the lifetime of the Buhari-administration is no longer feasible, due to its inability to secure the 85 per cent of the funds needed to execute the project, as earlier promised.
Sambo had in September, while inspecting the work done so far, disclosed that the contractor in charge of the project, China Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCEC), had often complained of incessant attacks on its workers around the Abia axis of the rail corridor.
He then said government was left with no choice but to halt the ongoing construction of the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri Eastern Rail Line, due to insecurity and incessant vandalism.
Recall that President Buhari had, two years ago, performed the groundbreaking of the 1.96-billion-dollar rail line project, saying that it would stimulate economic activities in the 14 states it covered.
The benefiting states included the five South-East states of Abia, Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi and Enugu as well as nine others – Rivers, Nasarawa, Benue, Plateau, Kaduna, Yobe, Borno, Bauchi and Gombe.
Besides, Sambo disclosed that the ministry got approval for four memos it presented.
He said: “The first to be approved is in respect of the award of contract for the upgrade of the Data Centre of the Nigerian Ports Authority, its servers, storage and business continuity, at the cost of N1,787,203,792.65, inclusive of 7.5-percent Value Added Tax.
“The second memo that was approved was for a concession of the Eastern zone offshore West reception facility, in line with international conventions and environmental laws signed by Nigeria.
“They require that offshore wastes generated by ships be disposed of in an organized manner, in order to protect biodiversity and human beings.”
Sambo said that when completed, the project would generate 25 million dollars within a period of 20 years.
He added that he obtained a similar approval for the western and central zones of the maritime domain of Nigeria, for a 10 year period.
Sambo also said that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) got approval for the deployment of the modular floating dock acquired by the agency, to be managed under a Public-Private Partnership.
“It is going to be managed by a private company that will put in an initial capital investment of 19.5 million dollars for a concession period of 15 years,” he said.
The minister said that when fully established and run, the facility would save Nigeria a lot of foreign exchange.
According to him, the present situation warrants that all cabotage vessels operating in Nigeria have to go to Benin Republic and Ghana, in order to access their docking services.