Mahmoud said this to State House Correspondants after the virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting for the week.
The Minister explained after being questioned on the slow progression of the project which had taken 5 years that community disputes and the large scale of the project were the principle causes of the delay.
Mahmoud also added that N6bn has been approved by FEC for provision of portable water for Gokana, Khana, Eleme and Tai L.G.A’s of Ogoni.
“Okay, well, first of all, let me clear the air that the project is not behind by five years.
“Yes, we have some delays. And this was evident when we came to assess the project and we went all the way to Geneva, and met with UNEP, that’s the United Nations Environment Programme that designed the project, conducted the studies and make recommendations.
“So there was a delay of one year yes, but then we have progressed. Now I can say that within the last one year, we have done up to 15 sites.
“So there’s tremendous amount of progress. And we are trying to push to catch up with the time, although we are still behind maybe by months.”
“But this is a project that you want to take time to do it and do it well. We are talking about the livelihood of people, contaminated soil by hydrocarbons, these are cancer causing chemicals, or what we call carcinogens.
“So while we try to make sure that we speed up, but we also have been careful to make sure it’s clean and is clean to the standard of the World Health Organisation and the standard set also by UNEP.
“So the project is going on and one of the things is this provision of water. Some of the delays that you are even talking about, yes, this is the first time that a project of this size and this magnitude is being undertaken, so you have these hiccups from the beginning and maybe also you have issues in the area because there are some issues with the land, maybe communities that are in dispute or not allowing access as they should and all that stuff.
“We awarded the first site in 2017 and the contractors were mobilised in 2018. Now, cleanup started, like I said, because being a brand new project, there were a lot of hiccups. Then towards the end of 2019 we awarded another contacted of 36 sites, all of these sites are being worked on and at various stages of work right now,” Mahmoud said.