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The actual implementation of recommendations by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on Ogoniland might not commence till next year. The Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, has, however, said President Muhammadu Buhari remains committed to the mission, perceived delays notwithstanding.

The actual implementation of recommendations by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on Ogoniland might not commence till next year. The Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, has, however, said President Muhammadu Buhari remains committed to the mission, perceived delays notwithstanding.

According to Legborsi Pyagbara, President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), the clean up might not start in the next six to eight months.

He told The Guardian that Ogoni currently lacks the requisite manpower to assist environmental experts push ahead with the exercise.

He said that in a bid to ensure that the project benefits local communities, stakeholders agreed that at least 300 to 1000 Ogoni youths needed training within and outside the country.

“We want it in such a way that our community will benefit. If the clean up commences today, where are the people with the technical capacity and ability to be engaged in the process? That means recruiting some young Ogoni, sending them abroad or anywhere in this country to train for a minimum of six months, so that they will be certificated and deployed during the actual clean up. It will take a minimum of six months to get a certification, locally and internationally,” he explained.

The MOSOP President said these are the initial basic things that need to be done before the actual clean up can begin. He also noted that building of the strategic Centre for Excellence and Integrated Soil Management Centre are yet to be implemented.

Pyagbara noted that during the study that culminated in the UNEP report, about 5000 samples taken from various locations in Ogoni had to be couriered to laboratories in London and America, warning that unless a soil management centre is built, the project would suffer logistical challenge of couriering samples overseas.

He said: “If you consider the cost of couriering 5000 samples, you will know how much that gulps. So, there are two ways. It is either we continue with that type of process or we ensure that the Integrated Soil Management Centre is built first. That centre alone will take a minimum of six months to a year. In fact, UNEP said it is going to take 18 months. But I received information, recently, that there is technology that can enhance building of the centre within eight to 12 months. That means everything will be fabricated outside. But our thinking is that the thing has to be built, here, so that it will encourage local participation and create jobs. And that means we have to go for the process that will take 18 months.”

Pyagbara expressed optimism that the governing council and the board of trustees for the clean up might be announced next week. He disclosed that the composition of the council and board were concluded last year.

“Last year, there was no consideration for the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to be in the governing council. Now, there is a proposal that they have to, because they have the sole responsibility of dealing with all the issues of the region. So, there have been arguments back and forth. There are a couple of institutions, which were not there last year. And which, with the benefit of hindsight, people are saying we need to bring on board. Such has also contributed to the delay.”

The Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, meanwhile, has called for patience, as government sets about laying the foundation for the clean up.

According to her, President Buhari remains steadfast in his conviction to clean up Ogoniland, even as she stressed the complexity of the initiative and need to carry all stakeholders along.

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