From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
The Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development, CEHRD, has faulted the Senate Committee on ecology and climate change and House committee on Climate change on their pass mark on the Ogoni remediation process by Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, HYPREP.
It would be recalled the Joint National Assembly committee had recently visited one of the clean-up sites in Alode, Eleme, following calls and agitations by Ogoni people and stakeholders on the slow pace of the clean-up exercise handled by Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP).
The committee led by Senator Hassan Mohammed Gusau, had after the visit, rated the remediation as not too bad but quickly called for speedy action to conclude project. They also commended the efforts of HYPREP in ensuring the on-going clean-up process.
Chief Constance Meju, Chairman, CEHRD, had criticised the NASS mark of approval on the clean-up process ad being unjust to the Ogoni people.
Meju who spoke yesterday, at the organization roundtable discussion in Port Harcourt on ‘An evaluation of the Ogoni clean-up project: stakeholders perspectives’, warned that the NASS should not allow what happened to Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to befall on HYPREP.
She stressed the need for the federal government to work in understanding with the Rivers state government and restore security in Ogoni.
She said: ‘There should be sincerity of purpose. The only thing that the clean-up is about is clean-up. So it should be standard cleanup, good practice, what obtains internationally. This is because we are talking of returning life to the land that has been degraded as it represents the life of the people.
“We also need to address insecurity, Ogonis is now much unsecured. Government needs to step in and do something about this insecurity. The federal government needs to work with the Rivers State government irrespective of the political party interest. This is not a party issue, we are talking about lives, and it is the responsibility of the federal government to keep Ogoni people OK.
“Whoever is in charge of the federal Ministry of Environment should understand that any wrong decision you take, you are killing lives. The same thing with the National Assembly, we are very upset. The National Assembly members came to Ogoniland and gave a mark of approval to HYPREP.
“On what basis, what has HYPREP done that should make them say they are doing well. We have it on record that substandard materials are being used, that things that should be done are not done. There companies without experience on remediation are awarded contracts on the project.
“The National Assembly members should not allow what they have done to NDDC happen to HYPREP. Niger Delta is not happy with them, they cannot keep oppressing us socially and politically. We may not have enough voice in National Assembly but people should consider if what you are doing to the Ogonis, you will be happy if they do it to your people. They should treat Nigerians as one.”
Speaking with The AUTHORITY, Dr Sam Kabari, Head Environment and Conservation at CEHRD, expressed shock that the NASS could evaluate performance of HYPREP well when the Ogoni people are suffering with nothing to show for in the widely publicized remediation of the area.
Dr Kabari said “Is shocking and very surprising to me that people that are representing their constituent will give that kind of report which is against communities expectations because we have done research on communities expectations and they are not satisfied with what HYPREP is doing so far.
“So, it is very shocking for us to have read on Twitter and heard on radio that the National Assembly visited sites that are being cleaned by HYPREP and that they expressed satisfaction with what HYPREP is doing. What that shows to us is that the national Assembly members do not understand sorry to say, what they should look out for and because the success of the remediation process is not dependent on you seeing people on apron.”
He queried, “On sites, did they compare the level of contamination in the soil when the lots were handed over to the contractors to what they have reduced to now. Did they ask about the depth of contamination in those lots, did they ask of the Key Performance Indicators (KPI), did they compare the KPI with what the contractors have achieved so far, did they even see the blueprint.
“For the clean-up, did they ask questions about where this clean-up will be in the next five, 10, 15 years. Did they ask questions about livelihood restoration in Ogoni, did they ask questions about what is the average salary of Ogoni man, did they ask question about the impact HYPREP activities have had in Ogoni?”
He added that ‘there are a lot of parameters to evaluate what HYPREP has done and if you look at that, even just the emergency measures alone: you can imagine HYPREP redefining what emergency means. We did not think that the National Assembly used right evaluation index to evaluate what HYPREP has done so far and so we are not confident in their report and we think that they need to do a revisit and do appropriate parameters to evaluate the work HYPREP has done so far.
“This programme was about we evaluating the progress of the clean-up so far. We were looking at how far HYPREP has done three years and some months and from the discussion it shows that we are satisfied.
“We were sympathetic to HYPREP about their procurement process but ad it stands now we are no longer sympathetic to them on their procurement process because we have seen that if HYPREP wants this to be done speedily it will be done speedily.
“We have concerns why buying cars for Governing council members and Board of Trustees members will be so smooth but when it gets to ensuring that people in local communities, people that are at the verge of being cancerous, when it gets to getting them portable drinking water, to at least cut the dose of them being cancerous, they suffer procurement delays.
“So we are not satisfied with the progress of the clean-up so far and if there is any time for HYPREP to sit up, it is now because the Covid-19 has affected the resources of the federal government and there is potential possibility that contributions to the clean-up will also be affected’.