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Stakeholders Harp On Potable Water In Ogoni Clean-Up

As Ogoni clean-up marks four years since its flag-off, stakeholders insist that emergency measures as stated by UNEP report must be followed strictly.

Stakeholders made the remark in a one-day on-line media briefing on community concerns in Ogoni clean-up process organized by Kebekache Women Development and Resource Centre in Port-Harcourt.

In her opening speech, Chief Emem Okon, Executive Director of the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) stated that the programme was organized as part of CORDAID partner intervention to strengthen emergency measures.

Earlier, the Coordinator of CORDAID Nigeria, Mr. Akin Oke, explained that part of the programme was to ensure that the voices of Ogoni people were heard on the clean-up.

He said: “We are trying to let the women and community youths to express their concern through their voices to deepen their conversation on the Ogoni Clean-Up.”

Dr. Sam Kabari, one of the panelists gave in-depth detail since the flag-off of the clean up in Ogoni land and called for proper understanding of the UNEP report which advises HYPREP to start the emergency measure without delay.

He maintained that the issue of water was critical especially now that the Covid-19 requires water that is not contaminated.

Dr. Kabari who is also a lecturer and environmentalist expressed shock why Ogonis were still drinking from the benzene contaminated water far below the recommended standard and pointed out that HYPREP needed work plan and key performance indicators (KPI) at public domain, while raising issue of competency of some of the remediation contractors as most of them still owe their staff.

He stated that remediation work of that magnitude could not be done within 6 months calling on stakeholders to tackle HYPREP on the TPH of the soil, the integrated contaminated Soil Management Centre and the Centre of Excellence as part of what will create jobs and reduce tension during the clean -up.

Dr. Kabari, however, called for independence of HYPREP for proper delivery, since there was need for transparency and accountability.

Others who contributed raised the question if HYPREP is keeping the money in a fixed deposit as there is low level of work done at the first 21 lots and the second 35 lots, while HYPREP has huge sum of money in their account without achieving much.

One of the panelists, Dr. Patience Osarojiji, stated that the Coalition of Ogoni Women Development Initiative discovered that the cleanup lacks communication strategy and proper community engagement.

She maintained that the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) needed intensive sensitization and campaign to build the trust of Ogoni people, noting that HYPREP's job at the communities is casual with only few women engaged saying this is not sustainable.

Dr. Osarojiji tasked HYPREP not to play politics as community expectation was high especially on the issue of potable water, livelihood, training of youths, health check and women training as part of emergency measures.

In his contribution, Comrade Dumnamene Fynface, who quoted from the UNEP report said there was linkage between illegal refining and Ogoni Clean up, saying the UNEP report talked about campaign against illegal refining with budget line but expressed disappointment that this has not been done properly.

He said that the report provided a space for alternative livelihood for the youth to change their mindset, noting that nothing has been done to reduce re-pollution in the area. He suggested environmental sustainability through engaging the youths through strategic sensitization and training on different vocations like the NLNG Train 7 at Bonny Local Government Area, while calling HYPREP to also look into the area of agro-agriculture to keep the youth off from bunkering.

It could be recalled that an Abuja-based company collected over 600 million naira for sensitization at the communities but has not done anything.