HYPREP Raises Concerns Over Artisanal Refineries In Ogoniland

…Says Power Project Is On Course

The Projects Coordinator of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), Professor Nenibarini Zabbey, has expressed concerns about the presence of artisanal refineries in Ogoniland, emphasizing the need to prevent the re-pollution of the area.

Speaking at the 2024 Quarterly Interactive Session with Ogoni Youths in Port Harcourt, Thursday, Professor Zabbey underscored the importance of a unified stance against oil pollution and artisanal refining to ensure the ongoing sustainable cleanup efforts in Ogoniland.

“We cannot allow artisanal refining to take place along the shorelines of Ogoniland. The reason is that if we do that, as we are cleaning, they will be re-polluting the areas we have cleaned,” Professor Zabbey stated.

He further illustrated the necessity of maintaining a clean environment by comparing it to the act of mopping a floor, stating, “And nobody, even in our homes will want to mess up the floor when you are mopping the floor.”

Highlighting the collaborative approach taken by HYPREP, Professor Zabbey expressed the organization’s commitment to engaging with ex-artisanal refiners in Ogoni to encourage their cooperation in stopping illegal artisanal refining activities.

He emphasized the significance of a united front against oil pollution and the need for the communities to drive the cleanup process, with HYPREP providing technical support.

Furthermore, Professor Zabbey reiterated the inclusive and community-oriented approach adopted by HYPREP, emphasizing the importance of community involvement and participation. He urged the Ogoni youths to embrace the various programs rolled out by HYPREP, including career enhancement and employability initiatives aimed at helping undergraduates and fresh graduates secure employment opportunities.

While addressing the issue of contract opportunities, Professor Zabbey stressed the significance of adhering to the Procurement Act and encouraged Ogoni entrepreneurs to enhance their capacity in the procurement process.

To facilitate this, he announced that procurement workshops would be organized in the coming weeks to equip young Ogoni entrepreneurs with the necessary skills to compete for government and private sector contracts.

Regarding the power project, Professor Zabbey assured the attendees that it was progressing as planned. He mentioned that the first phase of the project involved transmission and the construction of substations in Wiyakara and Bodo. He also noted that compensation was being paid for economic plots and assets along the right of way, emphasizing the importance of ensuring safety by not allowing buildings under the transmission lines.

Professor Zabbey also addressed the issue of currency denomination in the power project’s contract, explaining that although the contract was awarded in Naira, 69% of the materials needed would be imported. To address this, the Federal Ministry of Environment requested the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) to reconsider the denomination of the contract, resulting in 69% being denominated in United States Dollars (USD) and 31% in Naira. The necessary arrangements, including setting up a letter of credit, were being made to facilitate the importation of equipment for the project.

The Projects Coordinator reaffirmed HYPREP’s commitment to the power project, emphasizing its potential to stimulate small and medium-scale businesses and contribute to the economic prosperity of the Ogoni people. He pledged to ensure the swift completion of the transmission line and subsequent planning for the distribution phase in the various communities.

During the question and answer session, participants representing each of the four Ogoni-speaking local government areas had the opportunity to share their views on the project. While some expressed dissatisfaction with the perceived lack of benefits from the project, others commended the Projects Coordinator, Professor Nenibarini Zabbey, for his commendable work.

Several participants voiced their concerns about not receiving sufficient benefits from the project, emphasizing the need for greater inclusivity and equitable distribution of opportunities. They raised questions about the criteria for accessing contracts and emphasized the importance of ensuring that the benefits of the project reach all segments of the Ogoni community.

“We appreciate the work done by Professor Zabbey and his team, but we urge them to ensure that the benefits of the project reach all the people in the community.”, said a participant from Khana Local Government Area.

The Ogoni Association of People Living With Disability specifically lauded Professor Zabbey’s work and called upon the authorities to ensure that he completes his tenure in service, recognizing his commitment to improving the lives of the Ogoni people.

“We commend Professor Zabbey for his outstanding work. We request the authorities to ensure that he completes his tenure, as his dedication has positively impacted our lives”, they said.

These comments and feedback during the session provided valuable insights into the perspectives and concerns of the local community, highlighting the importance of addressing issues related to equitable distribution of benefits and ensuring the project’s success.

Earlier in a keynote address delivered by Dr. Gbenemene Kpae from the Center for Peace and Security Studies at the University of Port Harcourt, he urged Ogoni youths to reject violence as it hinders development. Dr. Kpae emphasized the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the region to foster progress and

Several prominent groups attended the event, including the Ogoni Peoples Assembly (OPA), National Youth Council of Ogoni People (NYCOP), National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), and Ogoni Youths Federation, among others.

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