In an interview with Vanguard in Abuja, Emuh, who is also the National Chairman of Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas, HOSTCOM, said the cleanup was yet to commence because of the issue of the wastes and the search for a suitable site where it can be dumped for the conversion to electricity.
He said: “There was also a technical problem, which is if the cleanup takes up, where would the rubbish that was cleaned be dumped? Wherever it is dropped, it becomes toxic and becomes disastrous to health. Based on that, before the cleanup is started, you must have a site whereby the envisaged waste from the cleanup exercise can be converted to energy.
“This type of arrangement is not yet practised in Nigeria. Get to Lagos and Kano and see the menace caused by wastes because of the population. If we are to carry out the Ogoni cleanup, we must have a company that would convert the waste to energy. That would also increase energy in the country.”
Emuh, who is representing oil- producing communities on the HYPREP Board, said the cleanup is presently at the demonstration stages and a number of companies are already at the sites displaying their competencies.
According to him, the project was delayed because of issues of locating a site where the wastes can be dropped for conversion to energy; Nigeria’s economic recession and challenges in the Niger-Delta region which hampered Nigeria’s revenue profile and the inability of the Federal Government to include the project in the country’s budget in 2016 and 2017.
He said: “The issue of the delay in the cleanup of Ogoni land, running to two years now, is as a result of the nature of what the project looks like scientifically. Africa and Nigeria, specifically is not used to remediation projects. It has not been done before in Nigeria.
“In terms of remediation, which is different from oil spillage cleanup, it has to do with getting back the original soil. A contractor, who is an expert in that, had to demonstrate. The demonstration is to prove that chemicals can be put into the devastated land and the destroyed ecosystem can be revived and the original water bodies that had been polluted can return to its natural state.
“To demonstrate and prove that it can be done takes over one year, before the chemical can sink down and produce the result; before the ground begin to produce the normal plantations for which it was known for. That is what the contractors have done.
“There is a little bit of relieve in the country and I believe that by June, many companies would have resumed, would have approved contracts for many companies to resume.”
He maintained that ever since the demonstration was carried out by the Former Minister of Environment, Mrs. Amina Mohammed, the project had commenced, as since then, companies are at site carrying out demonstrations and are actually trying to prove the worth of their demonstrations.
He stated that over 80 companies applied for the cleanup, while only one indigenous company displayed the required competency to fully undertake the project.
“Based on the Nigerian Content Act, the contractors are largely expected to be from Nigeria, but we discovered that only one indigenous contractor is qualified, that had what it takes, in terms of its demonstration at the site. The rest are foreign contractors.
“To demonstrate is capital intensive. You have to spend your own money until the contract is awarded to you. And you have to go for bidding based on public procurement laws. Those are the processes that the contractors are going through,” he noted.
He stated that the Ogoni cleanup was not appropriated for in the 2016 and 2017 budgets, noting, however, that the project was included in the 2018 budget.