Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the National Publicity Secretary of APC, said at a media briefing in Lagos that the clean-up is undoubtedly one of the most significant decisions taken by the President since his inauguration on May 29.
President Buhari on August 5, approved actions to fast-track the environmental clean-up of Ogoniland which has suffered pollution from oil spills and oil well fires to alleviate the suffering of the people.
Mohammed said: ”This action of the President transcends all the needless arguments about the appointments so far made by him, because it touches directly on the well-being of a long-suffering people.
”People whose farmlands, drinking water, homes and sources of living have been deeply affected by hydrocarbon pollution.
”The action also puts a lie to the antics of those who insinuated that the President would ignore those who did not vote for him in the March 28 presidential election.
”Undoubtedly, the most far-reaching action by the President has been to the benefit of the Niger Delta, where he is not known to have garnered many votes! What a pleasant irony,” he said.
Mohammed said that the President’s action had breathed life into a four-year report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) which has been gathering dust on the shelf since it was published on August 4, 2011.
”The UNEP report revealed the nature and extent of oil contamination in Ogoniland, which includes the extensive pollution of soil by petroleum hydrocarbons in Ogoni.
”Pollution has reached groundwater. In one site, in Eleme Local Government, 8cm layer of refined oil is floating on the groundwater serving community wells.
”Crops were damaged, fish fawning places in Mangrove contaminated, oil fires kill vegetation and there was loss of Mangrove cover due to increased artisanal refining.
”Surface water contains hydrocarbons. Floating layers of oil vary from thick black oil to thin sheens. Fish deserted polluted areas, which made the fishing sector suffer due to destruction of fish habitats.
”On the issue of public health, Ogoni community are exposed to petroleum hydrocarbons which are in the outdoor air, drinking water and contaminated soil.
”Community members in some areas drink water with benzene, a known carcinogen, at levels 900 times above the WHO guideline,” he said.
Mohammed said that the immediate-past government did nothing beyond establishing the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) in 2012, a full year after the report was submitted.
He, however, said President Buhari had approved actions to fast-track the implementation of the UNEP report – as far as the recommendations directed at it are concerned.
Mohammed said that the President had approved actions on the amendment of the Official Gazette establishing HYPREP to reflect a new governance framework comprising a Governing Council, a Board of Trustees and Project Management. The President also approved the composition of a Board of Trustees for the HYPREP.
”Some $10 million will be made available by stakeholders within 30 days of the appointment of members of the Board of Trustees for the Trust Fund, who will be responsible for collecting and managing funds from contributors and donors.
”A new implementation template has also been evolved at the instance of President Buhari, and the environmental clean-up of Ogoniland will commence in earnest with the President’s inauguration of the HYPREP Governing Council and Board of Trustees for the Trust Fund.
“It is important to say that with these steps by President Buhari, he has proved beyond doubt that he is a president for not just those who voted for him, but for those who did not vote for him and those who did not vote at all.”