The formal launch of the Ogoni clean-up programme kicked off on Thursday in Rivers State despite the absence of President Muhamadu Buhari, who was represented by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo.
Buhari, whose speech was read by his representative eulogised the likes of ken Saro Wiwa and his compatriots who were hanged by the Sani Abacha government, over their agitation for a better deal from the oil companies for the people of the area.
The President described the launch as ‘historic’, not only for the Ogoni people and their neighbours, but also for the entire country.
He noted that the inauguration of the programme, which is likely to take between 25 and 30 years, would usher in peace and prosperity for the people of the area. ‘’ Today marks a milestone. It’s a day of victory. You have fought
long and hard’’, Buhari said during the ceremony witnessed by the Environment Minister, Amina Mohammed, Rivers Governor, Nyesom Wike, Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi and Imo governor, Rochas Okorocha
among others. The President noted that the degradation in the areas has caused deep damage to the environment and affected the ecosystem, fishing and agriculture.
He advised oil companies operating in the region to adhere strictly to the rules, promising that the government would make sure laws are enforced.
‘’ Ogoni people continue to suffer. But we are determined to put the wrongs right. The people were unfairly treated. We are laying a solid foundation’’, Buhari said. While warning against the destruction of pipelines and oil facilities, he promised to place a high premium on the lives of the people in the region.
‘’ The companies must act within the rule of law. This government places a high emphasis on its people. The methodology of this clean-up will ensure that jobs are provided’’, the president said.
Earlier the Governor of Rivers State, Wike had argued that the Niger Delta has the worst form of environmental degradation in the whole world, noting that the degradation could take decades to fix.
Transport Minister, Amaechi also recalled the role he played during the conception of the programme, noting that many times, hoodlums planned to kidnap members of the UNEP team.
In his comments, King of Ogoni land, HRM GN Gininwa urged the federal government to not only clean up the area, but provide jobs and fix the roads leading to the town.