Artisanary Refining must stop for proper cleanup of Ogoniland – CEHRD

The unveiling of a document tagged “Environmental, Health, Human Rights and Gender Baseline study for Ogoniland cleanup:a framework for statutory and policy change” put together by CEHRD.

From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt

For the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) to get it right with the cleanup of Ogoniland and other oil spill affected areas in the Niger Delta region, the federal government has been urged to facilitate the stoppage of Artisanary Refining activities in the creeks of the area.

The Coordinator of Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD), Prof Nenibarini Zabbey, made the call recently in Port Harcourt, during a media interactive session on a policy brief titled “Environmental, Health, Human Rights and Gender Baseline study for Ogoniland cleanup:a framework for statutory and policy change”.

According to Prof Zabbey, the cleanup of Ogoniland cannot be properly done if the issue of artisanary refining in the area is not tackled, with the provision of sustainable livelihoods for the refiners to sacrifice activities for the remediation of both the land and coastal environment of Ogoni.

Zabbey said “I think in terms of artisanary refinery, it is important that the industry ceases to operate in Ogoniland. The reason is that for HYPREP to successfully carryout coastal remediation in a tider area. UNEP report actually recommended that for them to start coastal restoration, they had to deal with the issue of artisanary refining.

“If the activities of the artisanary refining is subsisting while the cleanup of the coastal environment is also carried out, it will be synonymous to cleaning the floor while the tap is on and it will not work. So the artisanary refiners need to be reintegrated into the process by being provided with alternative livelihoods system, mechanisms that are sustainable

“It is very important that the government should begin to develop packages that will take the boys out of the creek so that artisenery refining will stop and that is the only way coastal restoration of Ogoni can take place. And the earlier that is done the better for the process, the reason is that if we are concentrating on land now, neglecting the coastal environment then more oil is coming into the creeks of Ogoniland, more oil is sinking in the sediment of the coastal area.

“What that also means is that it will take longer time for them to remove the oil from the sediment and that is why holistic approach is necessary here. While we are dealing with the land remediation, we should as well be talking about how we reduce the concentration of oil in the coastal environment”.

Earlier in his welcome address, Zabbey who is a Professor of Hydrobiology (Biomonitoring and Restoration Ecology) with the University of port Harcourt, disclosed that CEHRD unveilef a policy document that speaks to the Ogoni cleanup wider Niger Delta region.

He added that the Ogoni cleanup requires a collective report of stakeholders for best practices.

Explaining the unveiled document, Dr Sam Kabari, Head, Environment and Conservation at CEHRD, stressed that the reason there is still problem in the Ogoni cleanup exercise was because there was no baseline for the project.

Dr Kabari who stated that the essence of the study was to provide a baseline before HYPREP intervention, stressed that if the recommendations in the policy document is followed accordingly, it will ensure a perfect cleanup exercise with regards to the UNEP report on the remediation of Ogoniland.

Kabari further disclosed that the document was achieved after the organization had a sample study of eight badly impacted and one non impacted communities cross the four Local Government Areas of Ogoniland

Some of the recommendations of the document, include that “Given that the Communities expectation is beyond HYPREP, Rivers State Government and other agencies should collectively develop a developmental plan for the area

“HYPREP should ensure the use of appropriate technology to clean all contaminated sediments, surface and ground water, and soul with the ultimate aim to restore biodiversity in Ogoniland.

“The federal government through HYPREP should expedite action on the Ogoni cleanup process to make the environment free from pollutants and other harmful substances”.

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