Youth leaders frown at political interference on Ogoni cleanup

From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt

Youth leaders of Ogoniland have condemned the political interference affecting the efficiency of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) in carrying out a transparent and world standard cleanup exercise in Ogoni.

In a joint statement signed by Dr Young A. NKPAH,
President, National Youth Council of Ogoni People (NYCOP) and Engr. Legborsi S. Yamaabana, President-General, Ogoni Youth Federation (OYF), it urged that the fund mapped out for the cleanup should be used judiciously for the purpose of the exercise and not to politicize the issue at the detriment of indigenes and residents of the area.

According to the group, “The ugly trend of bureaucratic and political interference have crept into the operations of HYPREP as the agency is operated in cult-like secrecy”.

“The current Minister for Environment has made promises to restructure the agency. We have made our position on the planned restructuring of HYPREP.

“The quest to restore the Ogoni environment was principally prompted by the struggles of the Ogoni people and must not be seen as a favour. Thus, every important intervention effort must strictly address Ogoni issues, be it social or technical. Any fund allocated for the Ogoni environmental restoration must be channeled exclusively to it and not diverted in any guise or predetermined outcome”.

Commending the Minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, for his commitment and resolve to overhaul HYPREP to function optimally to meet up the timelines set for the delivery of the Ogoni Clean-up Project, Ogoni Youth Leaders noted “that the remarks of the Honourable Minister of Environment on the abysmal performance of HYPREP has vindicated their long standing position regarding the incompetence, massive financial recklessness, conspiracy to loot, double standards and compromise in the operations and composition of the agency.

“These vices have contributed to the failure to heal the wounds of the bruised, battered, strangulated and marginalized Ogoni people, through the thorough implementation of the Clean-up Project.”

To achieve the success in the cleanup exercise, the group demanded for a concrete Remedial Action Plan (RAP) and the use of the Best Available Technology (BAT) for the Ogoni Clean-up Project to achieve the Gold Standard in environmental remediation, saying that the current methodologies of HYPREP are capable of creating further geotechnical and hydro-geological issues on our Shell-shocked land.

They also demand for the sack of the current HYPREP Project Coordinator, and insist that the office of the Project Coordinator that was designated and reserved for the Ogonis be maintained, noting that Ogoniland parades an array of some of the best hands in specialized disciplines related to environmental profession within and outside Nigeria, if there is no political interference in the choice of candidates.

Other demands include, “estalishment of an Independent Ombudsman (consisting of Ogoni environmental professionals and other internationally reputed watchdogs) for Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) and setting of the Remedial Target Value (RTV) for the Clean-up Project, devoid of the influence of Shell and JV Partners.

“A review of the profile of HYPREP contractors and their employment casualization scheme for Ogoni youths with a view to exposing the flagrant violation of Section 7 of the Labour Act, Cap L1, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 by HYPREP and its contractors. Ogoni youths are neither paid evenly nor given employment letters even after one year. This trend must be reversed.

“The relocation of HYPREP office from Port Harcourt to Saakpenwa, Ogoniland, along the East-West Road, for the purposes of proximity to the people, project sites. The operational autonomy of HYPREP uninhibited by bureaucratic and legislative bottlenecks, budgetary circles and political term-limits, using the North-East Development Commission as a model. This will avert the current cumbersome procurement processes that negate the emergency nature of the Clean-up Project.

The dissolution of HYPREP’s Governing Council, the Board of Trustees, and the voluntary resignation of all Ogoni representatives on both organs.”

The group added that the Federal Government should act in good faith in considering and implementing the terms of their resolutions to ensure the success of the Clean-up Project.

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