From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
A Non Government Organisation, African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development, (Centre LSD) has called for the autonomy of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project, HYPREP, an agency of the federal government set up to handle the cleanup of oil polluted areas in nine states of the Niger Delta.
The Acting Executive Director of Centre LSD, Monday Osasah, who spoke yesterday in Port Harcourt, at a One Day Policy Dialogue, Validation Workshop of Report on the operationalization of the emergency measures and cleanup of Ogoniland and the Niger Delta, stressed the need for independent of HYPREP to operate, adding that the cleanup has been delayed as a result of government influence in the process even after establishment of the agency.
Osasah who noted that the Ministry of State for Environment has raised $117million for the purpose of the Ogoni cleanup haven promised to commence exercise in October this years, stressed as a result of the delay citizens and inhabitants of the affected areas now doubt the sincerity of the government on the cleanup.
He said: “We are organising this because the Minister for State for Environment, has told the world that about $117million has been raised for the purpose of the cleanup. At the end of this month, there is going to be additional $83million, making everything $200million purposely for the cleanup.
“We are interested in seeing concrete actions being done with those money. That is why we think that they should make sure that both the emergency measure and cleanup proper are kick started for people to have a new leaf of live.
“The reason for the delay is because of the fact that until now the independent of HYPREP is hanging in the balance. And if independence of HYPREP is hanging, the law establishing HYPREP says HYPREP is responsible for the cleanup but for me it doesn’t say anything. That for me is a contradiction because until we separate HYPREP from the bureaucracies of government we are not going to move forward.
“HYPREP is only treated as a department in the Ministry of Environment. All of this money we said has been raised, HPYREP cannot disburse any of these monies except the minister gives order and that for me is a challenge.
“Therefore, I am calling for autonomy of HYPREP and real independence of HYPREP because without that, we are not going anywhere as far as the cleanup is concern.”
Osasah added that the policy dialogue was conceptualised to bring government, citizens and other stakeholders together to examine the content of public policies and make suggestions to resolving the issues militating against operationalization of the emergency measures and the cleanup of Ogoni and the Niger Delta.
Also speaking, Legborsi Saro Pyiabara, President of Movement for Survival of the Ogoni People, MOSOP, commended the Centre LSD for their impact in ensuring the actualization of the cleanup of Ogoniland.
According to Pyeagbara “All these programmes are put together to ensure that HYPREP delivers its mandate on the cleanup of Ogoniland. I am happy with the dialogue because it is also taking us back to where we are supposed to be and what we need to do to get to that place.
“Through our struggle, the account has been signed and Ogoni Trust Fund is in place. What has happened is that there was funding arrangement that was agreed on. And that funding agreement specified that an annual basis, the joint venture will be providing $200million into the Ogoni Trust Fund.
One of the resources persons at the meeting, Dr Kabari Sam, Head, Environment and Conservation Department, at the Centre for Environment Human Rights and Development, CEHRD, observed that “HYPREP is not taking the right steps to ensure that the soil is effectively clean and also to implement the UNEP report and recommendations as outlined. This is where CSOs, the government and every other stakeholder must put their hands on desk to ensure that the right thing is being done as regards the cleanup exercise.
“We were not expecting that cleanup should start before the implementation of the emergency measures. If the emergency measure has been given a back seat by the HYPREP, we want to see a situation where the emergency measure will be revert and brought on board, both of them should be implemented simultaneously.”