Port Harcourt — The Nigerian Government has awarded five new contracts for the remediation of heavily polluted sites, termed as complex sites, without setting up the Integrated Soil Management Centre, as strongly recommended by the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, in its report on Ogoniland.
UNEP had in 2011 recommended, among others, the provision of potable water to the people of Ogoni, as an emergency measure ahead of the commencement of the clean-up, in order to prevent the people from continuous consumption of polluted water. It also recommended a medical evaluation of the people to ascertain the level of hydrocarbon damage to their health.
Other recommendations by the world body included the setting up of an integrated soil management centre to handle the treatment of polluted soil; the remediation of 21 polluted sites; the restoration of livelihoods for communities whose sources of livelihoods were impacted by pollution; the setting up of a $1 billion trust fund for the clean-up project; as well as the setting up of a centre of cxcellence for further studies and research into hydrocarbon pollution and environmental management.
UNEP in its report had also stated that the clean-up of Ogoniland based on its recommendations, should be used as a template for the cleaning up of other polluted sites in the Niger Delta region.
But, the Federal Government had in January 2019 awarded and handed over 16 sites to contractors to begin the clean-up exercise, saying that those sites were less complex and did not require a soil management centre before they could be remediated.
The government, through the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, HYPREP, had assured then that the integrated soil management centre would be set up before the complex sites were remediated since it was where the contaminated soil would be treated.
However, the government last week awarded and handed over five complex sites to contractors for remediation, bringing the number of sites so far awarded without the soil management centre to 21.
Project Coordinator of HYPREP, Dr. Marvin Dekil, while handing over the five complex sites to contractors, said the speedy approval of the contracts by the Federal Executive Council, was a clear indication that the government was committed to implementing the UNEP Report within the shortest time.
Meanwhile, investigations by our correspondent revealed that out of the 16 sites awarded and handed over to contractors in January 2019, excavation work is ongoing only in one, Obolo-Ebubu near Trailer Park in Eleme, although insecurity and cult-related killings have been on the increase in the Ogoni region.
But, the Environmental Right Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FoEN, has described HYPREP’s handover of the polluted sites to contractors as a monumental fraud.
Executive Director of ERA, Dr. Godwin Ojo, argued that the exercise was fraudulent as it would be impossible to carry out any form of remediation in Ogoniland without the setting up of an integrated soil management centre and a centre of excellence as recommended by UNEP.
Ojo, who highlighted HYPREP’s deviation from UNEP recommendations for the cleanup of Ogoniland, regretted that up till date HYPREP had not defined its role in the exercise, adding that HYPREP was yet to provide water which UNEP clearly recommended as an emergency measure.
Also, several stakeholders and groups in Ogoniland, including Ogoni Youth Federation, OYF; Conscience of Ogoni People, COOP; and Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP; have disagreed with the strategies and processes adopted by HYPREP for the Ogoni clean-up project.
MOSOP General Secretary, Monday Neka Ziinu, regretted that not one of the UNEP recommended measures for the clean-up had been put in place, maintaining that HYPREP’s strategies and processes were illogical and deceitful.
MOSOP is also calling on the Federal Government to dissolve the Governing Council of HYPREP to prove its anti-corruption position, alleging that contracts scam and financial mess that has consumed HYPREP should not be ignored and swept under the carpet.