The Minister of Environment; Hajiya Hadiza Mailafia, has said that her ministry and Petroleum Resources are working to ensure the implementation of the report of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on the Ogoniland, home to a large number of oil production facilities has been ravaged by decades of oil spill, leaving the land and water of the area largely unusable.
Disclosing the plans on Monday in Abuja while fielding questions from State House correspondents, the minister said, the Environment Ministry with the support of Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers and the National Oil Spill Remediation Agency had carried out all the tasks highlighted in the UNEP report. She spoke shortly after presentation of her ministry’s budget performance to President Goodluck Jonathan.
She, however, rounded on critics of the Federal Government’s slow pace of work on the clean-up, saying “perhaps you on the other side are waiting just to see us on the ground. If you go there you will find that groups of people have been going depending on the nature of what they have to do.
“It is not a situation where you just take officers and equipment and drive into a system and say I am going to clean up, it is beyond sweeping. It is the whole task of trying to remediate a place that has been polluted for decades,” she said.
Said the minister: “We are making enormous efforts, I agree that the presentation was made last year, but you recall that just after the presentation of the UNEP report the country fell into some kind of unrest due to fuel subsidy issue.
“For quite a number of a number of weeks all of us were not doing what we should have been doing at that time. But it is not true that government is not doing anything.
“The UNEP report highlighted some immediate issues that needed to be addressed; finding portable or alternative supplies of drinking water, such as marking out the wells that were too polluted and doing other strategic framework activities that needed to be in place before the implementation.
“A place where pollution has taken place for a very long time requires a very formidable approach and we have been working on it through the petroleum ministry. I’m glad to inform you that everything is put in place and that we are just waiting for the execution.”
The Minister also took time to address the issue of incessant flooding in the South-West and other parts of Nigeria and blamed it on ignorance and outright refusal by people to comply with laid down regulations.
To forestall future occurrence, Mailafia said the Federal Government would carry out an enlightenment campaign to sensitize people by issuing flood warnings and alerts promptly.
On the ministry’s proposed budget, she said: “We were here to brief the President and the team on the 2013 budget as you are aware the executive is making all efforts to ensure all budget is submitted very early and in good time good enough for us to get it back and begin to implement as at when due.
“The issues discussed have to do largely with the policy trust of the ministry which of course you are very conversant with. We will be looking at what we have done in the 2012 year, and what we can do better in terms of principally packaging our project, the manner of which we conceive the project and the manner in which we implement them.”