AIFES Blames Delay In Ogoni Clean-Up On Lack Of Transparency, Oppressive Oversight Functions, Others
The delay in the Ogoni cleanup by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, HYPREP, after 11 years of its inauguration has been blamed on lack of an appropriate work plan and transparency by the operators of the agency.
This was the position of stakeholders in a meeting organized by Foundation for Energy and Sustainable Development (AIFES), a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Port Harcourt recently.
The meeting was to mark the 11th anniversary of the United Nations Environmental Protection (UNEP) Report with the theme: “The Journey So Far and The Way Forward”.
After a run down and in-depth discourses on the activities of HYPREP in these 11 years of its operation in Ogoni land, the stakeholders were of the view that the agency has failed in its mandate to clean up the environmental mess in Ogoni occasioned by the activities of multi-national oil company (SPDC) in the area.
According to them, a number of factors are responsible for the poor performance of the agency which include but not limited to lack of appropriate work plan and transparency by the operators.
Others according to them include the oppressive oversight of the Minister of Environment, the engagement of inexperienced contractors for the cleanup, the oppressive tendencies of government officials to dictate and control what happens in HYPREP, and the key players being more disposed to what they will make out of the project in monetary terms than see the Ogoni problem solved.
The stakeholders regretted that after 11 solid years of the commencement of HYPREP in Ogoni, no meaningful result has been achieved as the problem of contamination of the Ogoni environment subsists with none of the conditions and demands of the people like provision of good drinking water, air quality assessment of the affected areas and health registry to test the health status of the people addressed and implemented.
Also worrisome, the stakeholders lamented, is the abandonment of extra-cavated sand from the supposed cleaned-up spill sites by the contractors which some persons are tempted to collect for block molding and building of houses which according to them amounts to multiplication of the contamination.
In his opening address earlier, the Executive Director of AIFES, Legborsi Saro Pyagbara said the setting up of HYPREP was a welcome development and outcome of the cries of the Ogoni people for decades but regretted that the agency is yet to live up to public expectation. According to him, the Ogoni experience ought to be a model to other nations worldwide with similar environmental issues as Ogoni.
He also disapproved of the call for the transfer of HYPREP to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, calling it a misnomer as all environmental issues all over the world are the exclusive affair of the Environmental Ministry.
On the presidential call for the audit of all the HYPREP jobs so far, Chief Legborsi Pyagbara warned against using the idea as a ploy similar to that of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to foreclose all the many matters arising from the way and manner HYPREP has carried on all these years.
The Ogoni environmental activist and immediate MOSOP president however, opted for independent auditors as well as community-based monitoring and evaluation group for all HYPREP jobs.