Ogoni Cleanup: ERA urges FG to implement UNEP’s emergency measures

(L-R) Chief Saint Emma Pii, a native of Bodo, a polluted area in Ogoni, Barr Michael Karikpo, Programme Manager, ERA Port Harcourt office and Comrade Young Kigbara during ERA report presentation on Ogoni cleanup held on Thursday in Port Harcourt.

By Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has urged the Federal Government to mandate the implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP’s) emergency measures on the cleanup of Ogoniland.

This as ERA has also urged the government to commit to transparency and investigate any allegations of conflicts of interest and failures to the cleanup exercise.

Dr Godwin Uyi Ojo, Executive Director of ERA made the call on Thursday in Port Harcourt, at a presentation of the organization report on Ogoni cleanup titled “No Cleanup, No Justice”.

Represented by Barr Michael Karikpo, Programme Manager, ERA Port Harcourt office, Ojo further urged the federal government to completely overhaul its agency, Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) to ensure a true significant cleanup in Ogoniland.

“For the clean up to succeed at a greater pace, we urge the federal Government to urgently reorganize and completely overhaul HYPREP to ensure that it is able to deliver a truly significant cleanup in Ogoniland.

“We urge the Nigerian government to urgently restructure, reorganize and completely overhaul HYPREP in its entirety and remove all administrative, financial and political obstacles that are stalling the progress of the cleanup process.

“We urge the Nigerian government to finally ensure UNEP’s emergency measures are implemented. Government should commit to transparency and investigate any allegations of conflicts of interest and failures to clean-up”.

Speaking on the reason for call for overhauling of HYPREP, Dr Ojo stated that “HYPREP has so far neglected to conduct its operation in a transparent and accountable manner. The public still does not have access to its work/implementation plans and there is a huge opaque wall as regards its budget and expenditures.

“By May 2020, researchers observed that a vast majority of the 21 less complex sites had closed down. A few sites that were still working scaled down their workforce to essential personnel and five community laborers due to the COVID-19 lock down in parts of Rivers State”.

Also speaking on the incompetency of the contractors, ERA noted that “the 21 sites currently being cleaned up by HYPREP covers only a fraction, about 11 percent of the total area identified by UNEP. No site has been entirely cleaned up. Unfortunately, about one and half years after contracts for these sites were awarded with the expectation that they would be concluded within six months, none has been completed. Most sites have engineering problems and there are frequent reports about tensions with the communities”.

However, ERA noted the need for speedy cleanup of Ogoni environment and other polluted Niger Delta areas.

“For more than five decades, the people of Ogoniland, in the Niger Delta, have struggled against oil pollution, destruction of the environment and human rights violations. In 2011, a ground-breaking report by the United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP) on oil pollution in Ogoniland acknowledged the devastating impact of the oil industry and made concrete recommendations for emergency measures to support affected communities and clean-up the environment”.

Some of the participants at the event regretted that nine years after launch of UNEP report Ogoni people still suffers from consequences of oil pollution with no tangible remediation.

Dr Patience Osaroejiji, representative of Ogoni women and a native of Alode Eleme, one of the heavily polluted sites lamented “the emergency measures as the UNEP report stated has never been taken seriously and so the women are complaining all the time because of the effectst of the polluted land on them.

“Alode water has been contaminated since 1998 and the women have been using it like that. Women are suffering most because they are the people who go to farm, when they go on that polluted ground, bend down, weed their grasses and you see them inhaling all the pollution into their body system and which later leads to mischarages, fibroid, cancer, all sorts of diseases on their skins and now they are saying is COVID-19.

“And in this Covid-19, worst thing is this contaminated water they used in washing their hands. The women are so behind, there is no communication, no sensitization with HYPREP and the people and they are not being carried along in the exercise.”

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