The Government of the Netherlands through their Embassy to Nigeria has supported the Bodo (Ogoniland) mediation process since 2013. As a continuation of that effort, Ambassador Harry Van Dijk visited Bodo’s Paramount Ruler at his residence and the Project work area on Wednesday 11 March 2020.
Ambassador Van Dijk presented the International Marine Organization (IMO) Level 1 and Level 2 certificates to representatives of the 800 community workers trained as international oil spill responders in October 2019.
Personages at the event included the Paramount Ruler of Bodo King John Berebon, Deputy Paramount Ruler Chief Monday Koottee, members of the Bodo Council of Chiefs and Elders, the Bodo Mediation Initiative (BMI) Chairman and Project Director, Inemo Samiama and Erich Gundlach, Chairperson of the Bodo Contact Committee (BCC) Hon. Dr. Gabriel Pidomson and the Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN) Programme Manager Calvin Laing.
The Paramount Ruler of Bodo advised the community workers who were kitted in their personal protective equipment (PPE) to make judicious use of the training which has earned them the internationally recognized certificate. He further requested that the Dutch Embassy continue in their support for the BMI which has proved effective thus far as witnessed by the ongoing cleanup. The Paramount Ruler finally noted to all that the community workforce on the Project is gender-inclusive, thereby putting Bodo on the spotlight for gender equality.
Speaking at the event, His Excellency, Ambassador Harry Van Dijk, commended the leadership of the Bodo community for the warm welcome and the conferred Chieftaincy title (Mene Eedee 1 of Bodo; The King who brings Light) awarded him. He expressed gladness to be given the opportunity to present the IMO certificates to workers who have undergone the rigorous technical training required. In his final comments, he stated that “it is satisfying that over 800 community members from Bodo are fully involved in the ongoing cleanup and remediation of the oil impacted areas within the Bodo creeks; this will contribute to the economic livelihood of the people and enhance the skills and capacity of the community folks involved in the project”.
In the same vein, the Ogoni Restoration Project lead of Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC), Dr. Vincent Nwabueze, applauded the Dutch Embassy for initiating the BMI to mediate and enable the Bodo Community and SPDC to reach agreement on the way forward. He also noted that the mediation process has recorded two remarkable success which first includes completion of the Phase 1 during which 400 Bodo youths were employed, and large quantities of oil and other wastes were recovered. The second success is illustrated by the full mobilization of Phase 2 employing over 800 community workers. Dr. Nwabueze commended both the Contracting companies and workers that no work-time injury has been recorded despite the harsh work terrain.
After the ceremony, the Dutch Ambassador and other delegates took a tour to inspect the Bodo cleanup work area where they planted four mangroves in the remediation area.
The workers who received their certificates were in high spirit and expressed joy that the cleanup process will not only aid the restoration of biodiversity within the Bodo mangrove ecosystem, but also avail community members economic opportunities. They further stated that in course of the project, their skills and capacity in spill response will be enhanced. This they hope to cascade down to other Niger Delta communities within Nigeria and beyond.