The Federal Government of Nigeria says final processes for award of contracts for the clean up of Ogoniland will be completed this week.
Ogoni area in Rivers State has over the years been destroyed by oil leaks leading to the destruction of surrounding waters and farm lands. A UNEP report after scientific study recommended total clean up of the environment saying the extent of water and enviromental pollution in the Rivers communities was alarming.
Although the report was released during the Goodluck Jonathan administration, in 2011, the administration did little to carry out the clean up.
President Muhammadu Buhari shortly after his assumption of office in 2015 launched the clean up exercise.
An investigation by PREMIUM TIMES last year showed that despite official claims, the clean up was yet to start.
The Minister of Environment, Ibrahim Jibril, on Wednesday, however, said his ministry has reached the final stage of procurement processes that will lead to award of contracts to 21 firms so the exercise can finally begin.
Speaking with State House correspondents at the end of the meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), Wednesday, Mr Jibril said the Ministerial Tenders Board of the ministry met on Tuesday to consider the submission of the procurement department of Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, HYPREP.
He said in all "15 lots were up for grabs".
Mr Jibril also said the governing council of the Ogoni Trust Fund will meet on Friday to ratify the submissions after which "we hope by the next week, these letters will be out and the contractors will be mobilised to site".
The minister said five of the 21 lots which are beyond the threshold of the tenders board and the governing council will be forwarded to FEC for approval.
He said the ministry had already written to the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP ), asking for a certificate of no objection which may be approved next week.
"So, the next two weeks those five lots will be presented to the Federal Executive Council for approval.
"So I can assure you that we are on course and there is no going back on the Ogoni clean up," he said.
Former President, Goodluck Jonathan
Mr Jibril said this is the first time the Nigerian government has put a machinery in place for the exercise.
"No government in the last 30, 40 years of oil pollution has done what this government is doing now.
"The President made a promise in 2015, he charged us to actualise that promise, we took up the gauntlet, we put all the governance structures in place, we did the governing council, we did the Board of Trustees, we did the project coordination office and got a project coordinator put in place.
"We have advertised in the most transparent way right from the month of March both national and international. Some of them in the Economist of London and we have gotten more than 400 companies who expressed interest.
"We shortlisted after the technical evaluation and got 183 and these are the companies that were qualified to bid and pick the financials attached therein and they did that, it has been ongoing for couple of weeks now and it has been concluded and therefore I can confidently tell you that before the end of this month, in the next few weeks, there will be 21 companies that will be mobilised to site to start the work," Mr Jibril said.
Mr Jibril also said fund for the commencement of the clean up has already been sourced.
UNEP in its report had recommended that funds for the clean up be largely provided by the oil firms who extracted oil from the communities, especially Shell.
Mr Jibril in his statement confirmed that Shell was among the major donors of the funds raised.
He said because of the confidence that oil companies have in the administration of Mr Buhari, as well as the governance structures that were put in place, the Ogoni Trust Fund was able to mobilise $180 million from the oil companies.
"Right from the NNPC, SPDC (Shell) and the ventures; they have mobilised $180 million. It is in the escrow account with the Standard Chartered Bank of London and the Board of Trustee is managing that.
"So, as far as we are concerned, we can beat our chest and say that the Buhari administration has shown the way forward on this clean up exercise and we hope and pray that the people whom we are working for will have cause to laugh and smile very soon," he said.