From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, has recommended that 20% of Ogoni cleanup fund should be used for empowerment to address rural poverty, people directly affected and who have suffered consistently from the oil pollution.
Dr Godwin Uyi Ojo, Executive Director of ERA made the recommendation on Wednesday, to the federal government after a joint inspection of Alode, Eleme remediation site by the Senate committee on Ecology and Climate Change and the House Committee on Climate change.
The Joint National Assembly committee had visited some of the cleanup sites yesterday, following calls and agitations by Ogoni people and stakeholders on the slow pace of the cleanup exercise handled by Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP).
The committee led by Senator Hassan Mohammed Gusau, Chairman, Senate committee on Ecology and Climate Change, had observed during HYPREP presentation on achievements on the project, that the project is very slow, hence continue endangering the lives of the people in the area.
Speaking at the end of the visit, Senator Gusau, said the committee would have visited the sites earlier but the challenge of Covid-19 had delayed their visit.
He noted that the challenge on the site is mostly technical, urging the speedy cleanup of the area.
He said: “Alot of our agencies are complaining about the project, the NGOs and the communities are also complaining about the way and manner the job is being done. Actually, on my own side I observed that it is a technical work, is not a job that somebody can rush, money can be spent without yielding any benefit.
“The contractors should be serious and they should be up to date with their job because they were given six months and need to deliver that the stipulated time. Let them speedy action, because the money are there lying and what is the need keeping the money waiting”.
Also speaking with journalists, Dr Ojo, commended the Senators and Honourable members of the National Assembly for coming out to begin to exercise their oversight function which he believe for sometime was been neglected.
He noted evaluation and monitoring as a major problem in the process, stressing that the cleanup is a federal governmental legacy project to showcase its environmental ability to take proper care of cleanup process on Ogoni plight.
He stressed “We talk about organisational capacity, it should not be an offence, if I say HYPREP needs more capacity in area of Monitoring and Evaluation. You need capacity for your line managers, NOSDRA need capacity, everyone need capacity.
“We are all Nigerians, this project is extremely slow and that is why we need the restructuring. The UNEP assessment of HYPREP work said the way they are going it will require 100 years to be completed”.
The ERA boss who was also at the remediation site observed that inspite of the massive excavation that is ongoing, the level of integrity in the cleanup can only be determined by an expert opinion with a proper testing of the soil.
He appealed to NOSDRA to play a professional role in the monitoring and certification of the cleanup sites and also that the Federal Government of Nigeria should put in place a more formidable structure in restructuring the HYPREP. “It is now to restructure HYPREP so that is able to deliver effectively and conduct a proper cleanup”.
He added “We are in the discussion with expert committees in the National Assembly to see how we can use legislative backing rejig the amount that goes to remediation and the amount that goes to livelihood and ERA is recommending a 20 percent from the remediation fund to go direct empowerment to address rural poverty and people who have suffered consistently from this pollution”.
The HYPREP Coordinator, Dr Marvin Dekil led the joint National Assembly committee to the sites. He also disclosed challenges hindering the speedy cleanup of the environment.