15 January 2019, Sweetcrude, Port Harcourt — Ogoni elders under the auspices of Gbo Kabaari Ogoni, has accused the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, HYPREP, of a flawed implementation of the UNEP Report on the environmental assessment of Ogoniland.
Chairman of the group, Sen. Bennett Birabii, said HYPREP was not following the recommendations of UNEP, especially the emergency measures such as public health, provision of potable water and other fundamental measures that must first be addressed.
Birabii, explained that a part of the measures was ending of all sources of ongoing contamination, including artisanal refining, before the clean-up, and for the purpose, the sum of $10million was recommended for the provision of alternative employment for those in artisanal refining.
He said it was sad that nothing has been done about any of these emergency measures but also the national and international visibility of the Ogoni issue has been fraudulently exploited to score cheap public relations benefits at every opportunity.
“More than two years after the flag-off and the laudable assurances given, we are concerned that the manner and processes for the implementation of the recommendations of UNEP Report run completely counter to the assurances given by the federal government and more importantly, the very recommendations of the Report.
“Rather than commencing the implementation of the UNEP recommendations with the proposed emergency measures, what we have come to observe, and much to our chagrin, is that after each tranche of funds released by the oil companies on the clean-up project, the expenditure pattern has not only been opaque but also done in such a manner that not only undermines the smooth implementation of the project but is completely out of sync with the UNEP recommendations.
“Based on credible information available to us that the current clean-up exercise is only but a preliminary phase intended to show that something is being done, we wonder why it has been given priority over the emergency life-saving issue of provision of potable water.”
The group said that the recent announcement of a further release of funds from IOCs has been followed by a spree of clean-up contract awards that, amongst other things, debase and negate the concept of local content.
“In this regard, we recall that after the first announced release of the sum of $10million by the international oil companies, it became known that about N1billion contract was awarded to each of three consultancy firms of doubtful profiles and pedigrees and in a manner that looks like more like patronages.
“In our view, the extreme politicization of the contract awards, resulting in the exclusion of competent indigenous contractors from Ogoni and other parts of the Niger, is as insensitive as it is unacceptable to our people. It is therefore not surprising that the award process has sparked off a considerable wave of discontent throughout Ogoniland capable of derailing the project.
“An in desperate attempt to ostensibly stem the tide of anticipated protests over the exclusion of competent indigenous contractors, the Federal Government has taken umbrage under an ill-advised decision to draft soldiers to Ogoniland ostensibly to provide security services for the clean-up and remediation project.
“We make bold to say that the best security that can even be provided for any project in our community, and indeed anywhere else, is to fully involve the affected people in the implementation of the project.”