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Issues As Ogoni Oil Spill Clean-Up Begins

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ANAYO ONUKWUGHA gives insight on the clean-up exercise going on in Ogoni land.

Although the flag-off of the polluted Ogoni environment as recommended by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), was done more than four years ago by Vice President Yemi Osibanjo, the actual clean up exercise began only recently.

Managed by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) and supervised by the Federal Ministry of Environment, the first phase of the clean-up exercise is being carried out in 21 impacted communities by 21 contractors.

In a bid to further confirm to the people of Ogoni and the world the commitment of the Federal Government to the project, former minister of Environment, Surveyor Suleiman Hassan Zarma, had performed the ceremony of presenting the contractors to the communities and site handover in Alode and Obolo-Ebubu communities in Eleme local government area and Buemene-Korokoro in Tai Local Government Area.

The project coordinator of HYPREP, Dr. Marvin Dekil led the delegation for the site handover ceremony in Khana and Gokana Local Government Areas.

Before the commencement of the remediation exercise, HYPREP held a meeting with elected representatives of the people of Ogoniland.

Speaking at the meeting, Dekil assured indigent Ogoni people of their full participation in the ongoing clean-up of oil-impacted Ogoni communities.

He said HYPREP organised the meeting to bring stakeholders to current happenings in the clean-up exercise as well as assure them of the Federal Government’s commitment to Ogoni environment and its people.

The project coordinator said: “This commitment is there for all to see as 90 per cent of the workforce of HYPREP is made up of indigenous Ogonis even though it’s a national project.

“Also, the technical team of HYPREP is made up of 95 per cent indigent Ogonis which are achievements for the people.

“Similarly, we have about 320 Ogoni youths actively engaged on the sites as we speak, while 21 of them were sent to Geneva, Switzerland, to undergo further training on remediation.”

Dekil said training of the 21 scientists abroad was part of the plans to develop international level capacity among indigent Ogoni scientists.

The elected representatives also visited some of the remediation sites in Tai and Eleme Local Government Areas, to see the progress of the clean up.

According to Hon. Barieenee Deeyah , member of the Rivers State House of Assembly, representing Khana Constituency 1, “Today we came as elected representatives to visit the sites at Korokoro, Ueken, Alode, and Obolo. We have seen that work has started.

“We encourage HYPREP and the project coordinator to maintain this tempo so that at the end of the day all Ogonis will be proud of him.”

Hon. Aforji Igwe, member of the Rivers State Assembly, representing Eleme Constituency said, “I must tell you quite frankly that I’m impressed with what I have seen today. The project coordinator, Dr. Marvin Dekil, has done wonderfully well. The way I have seen the sites, the standard of work here is quite impressive.

“I want to encourage every son and daughter of Ogoni to give support to Dr. Marvin, the project coordinator, because with what I have seen today I don’t see him compromising, and this is why we have to encourage our people to be the head of affairs of anything involving Ogoni.”

Recently, a team from the United States Consulate, led by Mr. Shashank Iyer, the political officer, went on an inspection tour of remediation sites to see the progress of the clean up and assess the performance of HYPREP.

Speaking in one of the sites, Iyer said, “Progress is being made. We can say that more could’ve been done but this is how government works.

“It’s good to see that there is real progress being made on the ground. Things can sometimes move slowly but as long as it’s being moved forward, that’s important to us.”

Also, the British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms Gill Atkinson, accompanied by HYPREP Coordinator, Dekil, toured various impacted sites in Ogoniland.

The British envoy was taken round lots 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8 Alode in Eleme Local Government Area and lot 17 in Botem in Tai local government areas.

Speaking after the tour, Atkinson said she was elated at the level of work done so far in the on-going clean of Ogoniland, saying, “It is really good to see some strong progress happening here and genuine implementation of the project which has taken time to plan, but as we can see, there is a real productive work going on now. Congratulations to them for work well done.”

She gave the assurance of Britain’s support politically and also offering long term expert support for the project through the Department for International Development (DFID).

Briefing the British envoy on the progress of work, Dekil reiterated the commitment of the Federal Government to implementing the recommendations in the UNEP Report to the letter in the Ogoni clean-up project.

He said HYPREP has carried out several engagements with various stakeholders at the community level to get their buy-in to enable them take ownership of the project.

The project coordinator said that the sensitisation provided a platform for HYPREP to harvest ideas and suggestions from the people which have yielded positive results.

Dekil said, “The project is enjoying full support from the traditional rulers, youth groups and women groups in all the communities that the clean-up is currently taking place.”

He explained that the bio-remediation option adopted by HYPREP for the clean-up is a slow process but the most effective.

The HYPREP boss informed the Deputy High Commissioner that a total of 21 contractors are currently at different levels of remediation works on 21 lots across the four local government Areas of Ogoni.

However, a civil society organization, the Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action) is questioning the identity of the 21 companies that were awarded contracts by HYPREP for the clean-up of the polluted Ogoni environment.

To this end, the group wrote a letter to the HYPREP coordinator, Dekil, requesting to see the list of the contractors, with their lots, job types and specifications.

The letter, written in line with the provisions of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, also requested for details on the emergency measures, including livelihood projects so far done by HYPREP towards the Ogoni clean-up in line with the 2011 UNEP Report.

The letter, which was signed by the Social Action’s Head, National Advocacy Centre, Vivian Belonwu-Okafor, reads in part: “Permit us therefore Sir, to please request, in line with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act of 2001, that you kindly avail us with the following information on and around the clean-up/ remediation processes in Ogoni;

“Ogoni Clean-up implementation framework (timetable) showing activities’ schedule (inception to date, and in-view). List of the 21 companies so far awarded the Ogoni clean-up contract jobs, indicating their lots, job types, specifications, etc.

“Details on the emergency measures (including the livelihood projects) so far done towards the clean-up, so far provided by HYPREP in line with the 2001 UNEP Report.

“The requested information would provide us better clarity and insight into the activities of your body and strengthen is further as a CSO (Civil Society Organization) working with communities towards both the desired outcomes of your work (clean-up exercise) and the well-being of communities and it’s inhabitants.”

Rising in defence of HYPREP, the National Oil Spill Detection and Remediation Agency (NOSDRA) has declared that the project did not engage unqualified firms for the clean-up of the Ogoni environment.

 

NOSDRA’s Port Harcourt Zonal Head, Cyrus Nkangwung, who made the declaration in Port Harcourt, urged those who are doubting the competence and qualifications of the companies engaged by HYPREP for the clean-up of Ogoni environment need to present their facts to the agency for clarification, insisting that the 21 contractors met the specifications required for the clean-up.

 

Nkangwung said, “Even HYPREP took in cognisance that all contractors bidding for HYPREP projects must have certificates from NOSDRA. It is a specific requirement.

 

“Therefore, all the contractors that went for the bidding process; if there is anything that happened behind NOSDRA, may be somebody got a job from HYPREP without passing through the processes, that is what we may not be able to say.

 

“If there are specific places they have discovered, they should let us know. That this person is dealing on cars and NOSDRA gave them permit, they should let us know. Let us have it; it is for correction purposes.

 

“There are somethings that may go wrong and we will not know if it is not brought to our knowledge. We urge on every person that has such report to get back to us.”

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