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As President Muhammadu Buhari flags off the cleanup of the Niger Delta on Thursday (tomorrow), beginning from Ogoniland in Rivers State, the Federal Government has assured Nigerians that the exercise will not stop until it is completed.

It stated that it had put in place adequate measures that would ensure the sustenance of the clean-up exercise in the region and urged residents of the affected areas to support the government as the programme begins.

The Minister of Environment, Mrs. Amina Mohammed, who disclosed this on Tuesday, observed that aside the fact that there was already a $1bn commitment for the programme, some other government agencies and international oil companies would be involved in providing funds for the cleaning of the Niger Delta.

Mohammed spoke during a live television programme monitored by our correspondent in Abuja.

Asked to explain how the government intends to continuously provide funds for the sustenance of the clean-up exercise which, according to experts, would last for several years, the minister replied, “I doubt that the work will stop. I think first and foremost, the ‘Polluter Pays’ principle is up and doing and oil companies are paying for what they do.

“In this particular case, there’s been a commitment of $1bn and the governance structure that we are putting in place involves the governing council, which will determine the programme and how the road map is being implemented. But then, there is also a board of trustees where a trust fund for that money will be put and we hope to have fund managers who can begin to leverage that.

“Investors in the Niger Delta abound by a number of agencies. The Ministry of Niger Delta has a budget and they are part of this. Therefore, we look forward to ensure that we are working in the same direction. And aside from cleaning up the area, we will be looking at making it economically buoyant through diversification.”

Mohammed urged residents of the Niger Delta to show interest in the exercise, stressing that the President would be there in person to start the cleanup programme.

She said, “We can clean up the polluted fish ponds and the soil in Ogoni, but we’ve got to have buy-ins from the community to want to protect their environment and to see good things come out of it. Ogoniland is going to be our starting point, but the rest of the Niger Delta is also polluted in heavy ways, perhaps even more than Ogoniland.”

On responses gotten from the affected communities as regards the clean-up exercise, Mohammed said, “Everybody believes in President Buhari. The integrity of our President is what people believe in and they hope that something can happen. But right now, I’m particular about sustainability. However, the launch is incredibly important. It is historic and it tells the struggle, but what is more important is what comes after.”

Speaking further on plans by the ministry to access funds to address other environmental challenges across the country, the minister said the Nigerian government would tap from the resources that were made available during the recent Paris Agreement.

— OKorochukwu Ikechukwu ( Correspondent)

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