Representatives from the United States Consulate in Lagos visited the Bodo Cleanup Project site on Thursday 11 February 2021 to understand the level of work involved and progress made thus far in the effort to remediate and restore the environment within the Bodo creeks. The visitors were hosted by the Bodo Mediation Initiative (BMI). Participants available to answer inquiries included representatives from The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) and the Managing Directors of the four remediation contractors active on the site.
The BMI Chairman, Inemo Samiama, in his welcoming address gave an overview of the Bodo cleanup under the BMI which started with a pre-mediation process under the then Dutch Ambassador in Nigeria, Bert Ronhaar in 2013. He noted that the on-going remediation phase began in July 2019 and is making good progress. Mr. Isaac Erigi of SPDC described many of the Covid-19 protocols put in place to ensure worker safety after work was temporarily halted in April 2020.
Overlooking the work area, the BMI Project Director, Dr. Erich Gundlach provided a brief overview of project cleanup, highlighting the status as well as challenges encountered. He explained that the first phase of the project completed in 2018, focused on removal of free-phase oil in the environment while the on-going Remediation Phase will also include the Revegetation (mangrove planting) of the area.
He stated that approximately 1000 hectares of impacted land is being remediated and that plans are in place for the delivery of mangrove seedlings from three Indigenous contractors for the placement of potentially more than 1.9 million plants. He was pleased to note that trial planting of mangrove seedlings initiated in 2017 in designated trial plots within the project area during the free-phase oil removal, had recorded over 69% success with some of the new plants attaining a height over 2 meters after three years of growth. Natural recovery is also evident as the extent of re-oiling from illegal activities has been substantially reduced. In his final comments, the Project Director, however, highlighted the challenges of fully stopping artisanal refining and bunkering activities, which the project has continued to grapple with.
BMI Project Director, Dr. Erich Gundlach briefing the US Consulate Team on the progress of the Bodo cleanup project
In total, over 2800 workers from the Bodo Community will be trained and engaged in oil spill remediation over the life cycle of the project. In response to a US Consulate delegate inquiry on the employability of the trained community workers in other areas and cleanup projects, it was clarified that their skills are transferrable enabling them to work elsewhere on any remediation project, if they so desired.
Dr. Vincent Nwabueze of SPDC further informed the team that beyond the clean-up, there is a livelihood component including a goodwill fund in the sum of $7million which the community will be able to access and use for developmental purposes to benefit the community. Furthermore, the larger Ogoni Cleanup under HYPREP is well-funded and will also have livelihood options. It is hoped that the trained community workers will leverage on these opportunities to scale up their expertise.
The US Consulate officials affirmed that they are taking issues that affect the Niger Delta seriously and wish to be kept informed about continuing project activities. They further stated that the US will continue to explore additional ways to contribute to the affairs of the region.
In 2013 the former Dutch Ambassador to Nigeria, His Excellency, Bert Ronhaar, took a personal interest in the Bodo case and he sought to assist in bringing about the clean-up, remediation, and restoration of oil impacted sites in Bodo. His consultation with the Nigerian government, SPDC, and the Bodo community led to the establishment of the Bodo Mediation Initiative (BMI) which was set up to oversee and mediate throughout the clean-up project.
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