Port Harcourt — Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, has adovated that 20percent of the $1billion Ogoni cleanup funds, should be used in tackling poverty in rural areas where Ogoni people have suffered consistently from oil pollution.
Executive Director of ERA, Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, made the call when he led the National Assembly Joint Committee on Ecology and Climate Change, to inspect Ogoni cleanup sites in Rivers State.
Ojo explained that the essence of the cleanup is for the betterment of the lives of Ogoni people in rural areas who have been grossly affected by long years of hydrocarbon pollution.
He disclosed that ERA was already in discussion with concerned committees in the National Assembly, to give a legislative backing that 20percent of Ogoni cleanup fund should go into poverty alleviation of impacted Ogoni people in rural areas.
The ERA boss also stated that HYPREP can only make progress when rural poverty of the Ogoni people impacted by the pollution, is addressed.
“We are not pleased with the outcome so far because when you talk about environmental remediation, you talk about water cleanup. The whole essence of this cleanup is about people, the rural livelihood of the people, the fishing and farming had been grossly neglected.
“We are in discussion with expert committees in the National Assembly to see how we can use legislative backing to rejig the amount that goes to remediation and the amount that goes to livelihood, and ERA is recommending 20percent from the remediation fund to go to direct empowerment, to address rural poverty and people who have suffered consistently from this pollution.
“I strongly believe that it’s only when we do that, we are going to see the impact.”
Ojo who expressed displeasure at the slow pace of work by HYPREP, also charged NOSDRA to play a professional role in the monitoring and certification of the cleanup sites.
ERA explained that excavation of sand at various cleanup sites does not indicate that cleanup was ongoing, as there has been no monitoring, evaluation and testing by statutory bodies like NOSDRA.
“We talk about organisational capacity, it should not be an offence if we say HYPREP needs more capacity in area of Monitoring and Evaluation. You need capacity for your line managers, NOSDRA needs capacity, everyone needs capacity.
“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 complete the project.
“I want to take this opportunity to appeal to NOSDRA to play a professional role in the monitoring and certification of the cleanup sites because they should be involved in the cleanup, in terms of the testing.
“I want to appeal to the Federal Government to put in place a more formidable structure, talking about restructuring HYPREP, so that they can be able to deliver effectively and conduct a proper cleanup. Excavation of sand does not give indication that cleanup is going on, we need testing and evaluations.”