An atmosphere of celebration and joy pervaded Ogoni communities as the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) officially commissioned the multimillion Naira Barako Water Scheme in Gokana Local Government Area on Thursday, July 27, 2023.
The much-awaited project, aimed at providing clean and potable water to the region, was met with fanfare and gratitude from the local residents.
The Barako Water Scheme is a significant step in addressing the longstanding water crisis in the Ogoni region, which has been grappling with the devastating effects of hydrocarbon pollution for many years.
A federal government agency, HYPREP which was established to remediate the environmental damage caused by oil spills, took on the initiative to provide sustainable access to safe drinking water for the affected communities.
Gathered to witness the historic commissioning ceremony were dignitaries including the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Ibrahim Yusufu, Chairman of Gokana Local Government Area, Hon, Confidence Deko, top traditional rulers, community leaders, HYPREP officials and their counterparts from the Ministry of Environment.
The event was marked by speeches expressing appreciation for the efforts taken to improve the lives of the Ogoni people.
Speaking during the ceremony, the Gbenemene and Kasimene VII of Ancient Bangha Kingdom in Khana Local Government Area, HRM, King (Dr.) Suanu T.Y. Baridom called on the federal government to engage additional 5000 youths of Ogoni for surveillance job in the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP).
The royal father said the call became necessary as the employment of the same number of Ogoni youths during the first phase of the project went a long way in keeping them meaningfully engaged.
The First Class traditional ruler who thanked President Bola Tinubu for making the Ogoni cleanup programme as one of his top priorities, enjoined the contractors handing the HYPREP jobs to key in the youths in their programmes.
In his address of welcome, HYPREP’s Project Coordinator, Prof Zabbey expressed appreciation for the warm reception and enthusiasm shown by the Ogoni communities during the ceremony.
He described the occasion as momentous and urged Ogonis to be united for progress as more projects are in the pipeline.
Zabbey praised the collective efforts of Ogonis while acknowledging the challenges faced during the project’s execution.
He also acknowledged the long-standing grievances of the Ogoni people and emphasized the federal government’s commitment to addressing their concerns while promoting sustainable development in the area.
In his keynote address, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Ibrahim Yusufu pledged the commitment of federal government to develop and restore the Ogoni environment.
Yusufu who is the Acting Chairman of the Governing Council of HYPREP said the government will continue to work closely with the agency to ensure the effective cleanup and restoration of the Ogoni environment, which has been adversely affected by oil pollution.
“It is a priority for the government to mitigate the impact of past ecological damage and promote a sustainable and healthier environment for the future”, he said.
He expressed appreciation for the warm reception and enthusiasm shown by the Ogoni communities during the event.
In his speech at the occasion, the paramount ruler of Barako Community, King Kadilo Kabari on behalf of his people, expressed gratitude, highlighting how the water scheme would transform their lives and provide relief from the waterborne diseases that have plagued them for so long.
The royal father urged his community members to maintain and protect the water facilities to ensure their sustainability for future generations.
“Barako has seen development from the three levels of government and today’s commissioning shows that more projects are coming out of the pipelines”, he said.
Goodwill messages were delivered by stakeholders in the Ogoni project, including the Chairman of HYPREP Board of Trustees, Dr. Nwielaghi Barifenee Michael who disclosed that the entire fund for execution of the agency’s projects are still intact.
Michael called for patience from the Ogonis, as according to him, the project is one of its kind in Nigeria.
“Let me also urge our people to stop castigating HYPREP as a body. If there is somebody has issues with anyone, that individual should be targeted rather than putting it on HYPREP as a body”, the BOT Chairman said, while also commending the leadership of Ogoni Peoples Assembly (OPA) for diverting attention from what he called ‘Facebook insults on HYPREP’ to issues of relevance.
The Barako Water Scheme includes the construction of state-of-the-art water treatment facilities and a distribution network to ensure that clean water reaches targeted communities in Ogoniland.
Apart from providing safe drinking water, the project is expected to have a positive impact on the local economy, education, and overall well-being of the communities. The commissioning of the Barako Water Scheme marks a significant milestone in the ongoing efforts to restore the environment and improve living conditions in Ogoni.