The Environmental Rights Agenda/ Friends of the Earth (ERA/FoEN) has declared that bureaucratic bottlenecks of the Federal Government and Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) were hampering the ongoing clean-up of impacted Ogoni environment by the Hydrocarbon Remediation Project (HYPREP).
This is as it called on the Federal Government to urgently restructure, reorganize and completely overhaul of HYPREP in order to remove all administrative, financial and political obstacles stalling the progress of the cleanup exercise.
ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, spoke in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, at an event to mark the 9th year of the report of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on Ogoni environment.
He said: “HYPREP is bogged down by Nigerian government bureaucracy and Shell bureaucratic bottlenecks that has seen the programme unable to make progress to open the bid process for the more complex sites and there appears to be no disclosed strategy on how to move forward with this aspect of the project.
“The Environmental Rights Agenda/ Friends of the Earth therefore calls for the Nigerian government’s urgent restructuring, reorganization and complete overhaul of HYPREP in its entirety in order to remove all administrative, financial and political obstacles stalling the progress of the clean up exercise.”
Ojo, who was represented by ERA/FoEN Program Manager, Barrister Mike Karikpo, described the project’s procurement process as “significantly flawed”, saying that work has stopped in 11, out of the 17 clean-up sites in Ogoniland.
He said: “HYPREP is not designed nor structured to implement a project as complex and sizeable as the Ogoni clean-up. HYPREP’s procurement process is significantly flawed. Its current rate of fund disbursement will mean it will need 100 years to effectively utilize a budget that was to last an initial five years. HYPREP’s processes lacked transparency and we’re not open to public scrutiny.
“Work has stopped at 11, out of the 17 clean-up sites researchers visited. Many of these sites stopped work in late 2019. Two sites had not even commenced work at the time of our visits except for the information board displayed outside their area of operation.”
The ERA/FoEN Director expressed worry that the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) has not visited any of the cleanup sites in Ogoniland to certify that the work done complied with contractual or regulatory requirements.
He said: “There are concerns that the laboratories in Port Harcourt where soil samples from the clean up sites are taken for analysis have been compromised. We have testimonies from workers in the field that most samples do not meet regulatory or contractual requirements, but they are given the all clear by these labs.
“There is absence of independent verification of the results churned out by the labs in Port Harcourt. There are also concerns that some of these labs are owned by contractors engaged in the clean-up process and others are owned by senior officials of HYPREP.
“National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), the body saddled with the responsibility for certification of clean up and remediation work has not visited these sites to certify that the work done complies with contractual or regulatory requirements but HYPREP and the Ministry of Environment have already cleared some of them and asked them to back fill their sites.”