From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
Coalition of Civil Society Organization in Port Harcourt, Rivers State has urged the management of Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) to as a matter of urgency expedite action on the implementation of emergency measures as recommended by the United Nation Environmental Programme (UNEP) report for the cleanup of Ogoni land.
The organisations made the call at a stakeholders’ strategic meeting organised by Fostering Advancement of Community Empowerment (FACE) Initiative, in Port Harcourt.
Speaking at the meeting, Executive Director, Ketbekache Women Development Resource Centre, Emem Okon expressed concern on how the women in the impacted communities were coping with the non implementation of the emergency measures as stipulated by the UNEP report since it was released in 2011.
Okon pointed out that the issues of ensuring health database, executing integrated health outreach in the communities and provision of good drinking water were long overdue, adding that it was already nine years since the report was made public, yet the emergency measures have yet to be implemented, against the recommendation that it should be completed within the first five years.
According to her, “HYPREP must expedite action in implementing the emergency measures, provide communities clean drinking water, conduct health database registration, among other activities.
“In the case of community sensitisation, we want HYPREP to review their approach on this, such that it would include more community members, thereby giving them a sense of belonging.
“They should be included in the process of discussion, dialogue, and sensitisation, so that they can take ownership of the project and the process of the clean-up in Ogoniland”, Okon added.
Earlier, the Executive Director of the FACE initiative, Mr Inatimi Odio, said that the people’s expectations were very high, affirming that the slow pace of the cleanup was eroding the people’s confidence in the cleanup process.
Odio further called for more commitment in community engagement on the part of HYPREP in order to break the vacuum created as a result of poor communication.
He charged HYPREP management to do more inclusive engagement with community members, so as not to be perceived as being partial.
The executive director noted that the FACE Initiative would collaborate with other CSOs and community groups to contribute to expanding community interactions and engagements through sustained consultations and sensitisation on the importance of the Ogoni clean-up exercise.
On his part, Executive Director, African Citizens Initiative Rights and Development (ACIRD), Mr Young Kigbara, stressed the need for the independence of HYPREP so as to reduce the bureaucracy that currently exists, noting that this has contributed to the pace of the cleanup exercise.
Kigbara attributed the slow pace in HYPREP activities to overbearing and cumbersome bureaucratic process in the system of getting funds approved by the Federal Executive Council.
He also blamed HYPREP for not thinking through most of its activities, claiming that HYPREP does not have a work plan, adding that his claim was based on the fact that if HYPREP had one, it would have made same available for the public to easily access.