The Special Envoy of the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Erik Solheim, has restated the organisation’s determination to restore Ogoniland in the Niger Delta region in Nigeria. The communities in the region have been degraded by decades of pollution from oil exploration activities.
The Envoy to Achim Steiner (UNEP Executive Director) also commended the Federal Ministry of Environment for its exemplary work in the country.
Erik told Environment Minister, Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia, in Abuja at a meeting that he was in the country to engage key stakeholders on the anticipated work in the restoration of Ogoniland. He added that although Nigeria was leading in the exercise, the United Nations’ system had a variety of experts and scientists it was willing to deploy to assist Nigeria in any way.
Responding, Mailafia thanked the UNEP for its partnership and support through visits and interaction with the various communities in the area, leading to the writing of the report. She disclosed that the Federal Government had already made a lot of progress in the implementation of the report, and tried to carry all the communities along because, according to her, they have a lot at stake.
She described Erik’s visit as a “clarion call that we should move faster than we are moving now. But, I assure you that things are working,” she said.
Several years ago, UNEP released the “Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland” report, which highlights the unique challenges and complexities of Ogoniland.
Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC), a major oil prospecting firm, withdrew from the area and halted production in 1993 following several attacks against its staff. The communities have granted the company only limited access since then.
The organisation has expressed the hope that the UNEP report will be a catalyst for cooperation to address the challenges in Ogoniland and the wider Niger Delta. It likewise welcomes President Goodluck Jonathan’s initiative to set up a Presidential Committee to coordinate required actions by all parties.