Posts

ICYMI: Ogoni Cleanup: 17 contaminated sites certified cleaned – Minister

The Federal Government had on Wednesday disclosed that 17 contaminated sites have been cleaned up and certified clean on the Ogoni Clean-up exercise.

It also said that six water projects in the area have been awarded, while 400 Ogoni women have graduated in various small businesses in agriculture, aquaculture, poultry, among others.

The Minister of Environment, Mohammed Mahmoud made the disclosure while responding to a question from the State House Correspondents to give an update of Ogoni clean up.

According to Mahmud, “Just yesterday (Tuesday) we passed the budget of the Ogoni Clean-up otherwise known as HYPREP – Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project. It has gotten a lot of boost.

“We have a brand new Governing Council. We have a brand new board of trustees and we are Increasing the participation of union ordinarily they are technical support.

“And now we want to involve them even further by making them like some kind of project management consultant. And also we are looking at bringing in more indigenous people that will be part of this process, because what we realise is for any project to succeed, you must have the buy-in of the community.

“And so far, so good, I can tell you that project has moved forward, we have about 17 contaminated sites that have been cleaned up and certified, clean. And then just recently also, we awarded contracts for six water project, this water project should have been awarded earlier from the very beginning of the project. But we awarded the contract at about over N6 billion. Again, we’re working towards additional eight water projects that will be coming very soon. In fact, we just got the approval to advertise for that and also to go into the complex side.”

The minister added that the government was still working on the simple side of the project while that of the complex side will be coming soon, adding that it will include remediation of the soil and the groundwater.

“So the project is moving fast, we are catching up the little time we have lost in the last couple of years, especially because of the COVID also, but so far, so good,” he said

Mahmud further explained that, “There’s also a component of livelihood. And we have just graduated 400 Ogoni women in various small businesses like agriculture, aquaculture, poultry, and all that.

“And also youths that have been trained, as welders and plumbers, we have just also distributed 5000 need assessment forms for people to indicate their interest what they want to do so that they can be trained, and be given some kind of lovely, which is a major component of the clean up.”

In the same vein, the minister reiterated government’s commitment to end gas flaring in the country come 2030.

“This is something that other countries have done and Nigeria is looking at various ways this can be achieved. It’s still being worked on and this is part of the 2050 gas neutrality.”

The Federal Government had in May said it will this month award licences under the Nigerian Gas Flare Commercialization Programme (NGFCP) to qualified bidders as part of efforts to end gas flaring in the country and expand her gas footprint.

The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) had last year December said 45 out of 178 gas flaring sites in the country were identified for award to successful bidders.

Ogoni CleanUp: FG flag-off of water projects in Ogoniland

As part of the key emergency measures recommended by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in the Cleanup of Ogoniland, the Federal Government has flagged off key water projects in Ogoniland to provide potable water to the impacted communities.

The ongoing cleanup efforts is being undertaken by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), under the Federal Ministry of Environment.

Recall, that HYPREP had carried out a survey of drinking water sources across the four Local Government Areas of Ogoniland. A total of 600 water samples was collected and analysed from 47 impacted communities across the four (4) LGAs – Eleme, Gokana, Tai and Khana.

HYPREP also commenced the process for the construction of new comprehensive water schemes and rehabilitation of existing ones in these communities.

The event, which was well attended by leaders from the host communities, representatives from UNEP, Shell Nigeria and other stakeholders in the Niger Delta region, is a milestone in the ongoing cleanup of Ogoniland.

At the flag-off of the water projects in Ogoni, the Officer Overseeing the Project Coordinating Office (PCO), HYPREP, Prof. Phillip Shekwolo, called on Ogoni people to support the laudable agenda of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure the cleanup of Ogoniland.

Shekwolo also commended the efforts of the Minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammad Mahmood, in accelerating the contract approval process.

Recall that the Minister had paid a courtesy visit to the Palace of HRH Barile Y. Deebom, Mene Ken-Khana Kingdom last week, where he stated that eight additional water projects will soon commence in Ogoni. The Minister also launched the 5,000 NEEDS Assessment forms for the livelihood programme.

Ogoniland: We’ve Cleaned up 15 Sites, says Minister

*FEC approves award of contracts for Rehab/Construction of 6 Water Supply Schemes in Ogoniland

The federal government yesterday put the total number of oil-polluted sites that have been cleaned up in Ogoniland in Rivers State at 15.

According to Thisday, the Minister of the Environment, Mr. Muhammad Mahmoud, while answering reporters’ questions at the end of the weekly virtual meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at the State House, in Abuja, also stated that the council approved N6.04 billion for the provision of potable water in the four local government areas of Ogoniland namely Gokana, Khana, Eleme and Tai in Rivers State.

The award of contracts for Rehabilitation/Construction of 6 Water Supply Schemes with a capacity of supplying 2400 m3 of potable water per day to Ogoni communities by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) is regarded as a major milestone in the Cleanup exercise.

He said the cleaning up of the oil pollution sites in Ogoniland was delayed by a year which informed why only 15 sites had been certified clean so far.

He said he met with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) over the matter before approaching President Muhammadu Buhari who approved the adjustment of the contract for the cleanup to commence.

He said: “We had some delays. And this was evident when we came to assess the project and we went all the way to Geneva and met United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) that designed the project, conducted the studies and make recommendations.

“When we came back, I went and explained to Mr. President that according to their record, we were behind by just one year. And we sought approval to make some changes, and he graciously approved. And we have made those changes. And between then and now, 15 sites have been cleaned up and certified clean.

So there was a delay of one year Yes, but then we have progressed. Now I can say that within the last year, we have done up to 15. So there’s a tremendous amount of progress.

“And we are trying to push to catch up with the time, still maybe behind by months. But this is a project that you want to take time to do and do it well. we are talking about the livelihood of people contaminated soil by hydrocarbons, these are cancer-causing chemicals, or we call them carcinogens.”

Mahmood stated that the local communities in Ogoniland did not help matters as they prevented government officials and contractors from accessing their areas for clean-up to progress.

He, however, added that 36 additional contracts had been awarded for the total clean-up of Ogoniland.

“So, you have these hiccups from the beginning and maybe from the beginning and also you have issues also in the area, you know because there are some issues with the land, maybe communities that are in dispute or not letting us access as they should and all that stuff. These are really some of the reasons but I wish to tell you that we have awarded additional contracts about 36

“It took us about five to six months to even access some of the sites that have already been contracted out because some communities are in dispute and will not let us go into the land even commence the cleanup until just recently, not more than three months ago, that we’re able to get them to understand we’re not there for land dispute, but for cleanup, and once you get the cleanup is done, whoever gets the land, gets a clean land,” he stated

The minister also said the FEC meeting approved N6.04 billion for the supply of water to the four local government councils that make up Ogoniland.

This, he said, was a follow-up to the cleanup of the oil polluted areas of Ogoniland.

“If you recall, the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, otherwise known as HYPREP, was commissioned in 2016 to clean Ogoniland, impacted areas of Ogoniland, based on a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

“The mandate of the project is not just cleaning up the contaminated areas by oil pollution, but also to provide drinking water and to also provide alternative livelihood for the people of that area.

“The water projects are at different prices and also different completion periods, I think ranging from six months all the way to nine months, depending on the atmosphere. It’s rehabilitation and construction and some of these will link with the River State Government’s water system,” the minister said.

Ogoni Clean-up: FG committed to UNEP report implementation, says Minister

The Honorable Minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammed Mahmood Abubakar, has reiterated President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to the full implementation of the recommendations in the United Nations Environmental Assessment Report on Ogoniland.

He said the Ogoni clean-up is a signature project, the first of its kind in Africa and the world with no existing template, while noting that HYPREP was developing one that would be used hereafter for the remediation of the rest of the Niger Delta.

Dr. Abubakar stated this during a working visit to the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) and some remediation sites across Ogoniland, and was received on arrival by the Project Coordinator of HYPREP, Dr. Marvin Dekil.

The Honorable Minister also paid a courtesy visit to His Royal Majesty King G. N. K. Gininwa in his palace where he informed the King that the Ogoni clean-up is a pet project of President Buhari’s administration which is why the President constantly makes reference to the Ogoni clean-up project.

He said the Ogoni clean-up is a signature project, the first of its kind in Africa and the world with no existing template but rather HYPREP was developing one that would be used hereafter for the remediation of the rest of the Niger Delta.

The Honorable Minister assured the people of Ogoni that the Federal Government was not just concerned about remediating the environment but is also concerned about the well-being and economic life of the people.  He said “The Federal Government is aware that there are several other challenges you are facing as a result of the pollution.  That is why even though the core mandate of HYPREP is to remediate the land, other programs have been built into the Project to address some of these challenges.”

The traditional ruler appealed to the Minister for the inclusion of the Ogonis and to ensure that the people benefit fully from the clean-up project.

The Minister also attended the sensitization of women on the Livelihood program in Tai. He expressed satisfaction with the huge turnout of women for the program adding that it goes to show the seriousness of the women to key into the training programs to create economic activities for their financial empowerment.

Addressing the crowd at the event, Dr. Abubakar urged the women, men and youths to key into the various opportunities provided through the clean-up project to empower themselves to contribute to the economic growth of the kingdom.

Dr. Abubakar urged the people of Ogoni to be patient and ensure sustained peace during and after the project.  While expressing appreciation to the Royal Father, the Council of Chiefs the Youths of Ogoni, the Women, Opinion Leaders and others for their contributions to the success of the project, he appealed to the youths to desist from carrying out illegal bunkering and other activities that may negatively affect the environment.

Speaking with journalists during the inspection of some remediation sites, the Minister said with what he has seen, he has confirmed that remediation is going on across the various sites.  He said “I can say this is a big success for this administration, the people of Ogoni that I have talked to, the youths, women, elders they are happy with this and happy with Mr. President for keeping his promise to clean up Ogoni.”

“Let me say that this is something that is serious right from the start where we even have UNEP to do the assessment and follow through to ensure compliance with the recommendations.  This shows the commitment of the government; the commitment of the President and I believe every Nigerian not just the Ogonis should give this project a chance.  From what I have seen, the HYPREP team is doing a good job.”

On the issue of water, the Minister said HYPREP has gone beyond the provision of water in tankers, but was working to ensure the provision of a sustainable source of water not just in the impacted communities but to other communities in collaboration with the Rivers State Ministry of Water Resources.

He assured the people saying “we are following all the recommendations of UNEP and we all know when you are dealing with UN you must follow everything to the standard. The government has promised to use the UNEP Report to make sure the work is done according to the recommendations.  We are here to support the President’s commitment to the clean-up project, and I urge all of you to throw your weight behind HYPREP so that the dream of the President for a clean and healthy Ogoniland will be realized.”

Briefing the Minister, the Project Coordinator went through the various activities that HYPREP has carried out since inception.  He informed him that a total of 21 sites have been handed over to 21 contractors who were currently at different levels of remediation works while a joint team of HYPREP and UN are in the field to carry out reconnaissance in preparation for the commencement of the remediation of the complex sites.

Dekil added that the project has provided opportunities for training of Ogoni youths through the Livelihood Program, technical training for Scientific Officers who are all Ogonis in Nigeria and in Switzerland while arrangements for the training of 400 Ogoni women by United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) has been concluded.

The Project Coordinator further informed the Minister that HYPREP had carried out two medical outreaches where 20,000 patients were treated, and 400 surgeries carried out.  He added that HYPREP was collaborating with Rivers State Ministries of Water Resources and Health for the provision of water and assessment of health facilities in the impacted communities in Ogoniland.

PHOTOS: Ongoing Ogoni Cleanup in Niger Delta

Pictures from Eleme LGA, one of the four Local Government Areas of Ogoniland where the clean-up/ remediation exercise is ongoing.

It shows the process of transfering contaminated soil into Bio-cell for treatment at the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) Project Site, Lot 006, Nkeleoken, Alode, Eleme LGA in Ogoniland, Rivers State.

A total of 21 contractors are currently at different levels of remediation works on 21 lots across the four Local Government Areas in Ogoniland – Eleme, Gokana, Khana and Tai LGAs.

The Ogoni clean-up is part of the Buhari administration’s New Vision and underscores its commitment to a cleaner and better environment in the Niger Delta region.

It would be recalled that in June 2016, the Buhari administration started the process of implementation of the 2011 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoniland. The Ogoni clean-up project is the first of its kind by a Nigerian government in the oil-rich Niger Delta environment that had been devastated by decades of oil spills.

Ogoni clean-up: UK commends HYPREP on remediation exercise

The British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms. Gill Atkinson says she is elated at the level of work done so far in the ongoing clean-up of Ogoniland in line with the recommendations of the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP Report on the Ogoni environment.

Gill stated this when she led some officials of the High Commission on a working visit to some sites in Ogoniland being remediated by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, HYPREP. She said, “It is really good to see some strong progress happening here and genuine implementation of the project which has taken time to plan, but as we can see, there is a real productive work going on now.  Congratulations to them for work well done”.

She gave assurance of Britain’s support politically and also offering long term expert support for the project through the Department for International Development (DFID).

The Project Coordinator, HYPREP, Dr. Marvin Barinem Dekil while briefing the British Deputy High Commissoner on the progress of work, reiterated the commitment of the Federal Government to implementing the recommendations in the United Nations Environment Project (UNEP) Report to the letter in the Ogoni clean-up project.

He said HYPREP has carried out several engagements with various stakeholders at the community level to get their buy-in to enable them take ownership of the project.  He added that the sensitization provided a platform for HYPREP to harvest ideas and suggestions from the people which have yielded positive results.

“The project is enjoying full support from the traditional rulers, youth groups and women groups in all the communities that the clean-up is currently taking place”.

He explained that the bio-remediation option adopted by HYPREP for the clean-up is a slow process but the most effective.  He informed the Deputy High Commissioner that a total of 21 contractors are currently at different levels of remediation works on 21 lots across the 4 Local Government Areas of Ogoni.

The HYPREP Coordinator also said that the Project has provided huge employment opportunities for youths of Ogoni while business opportunities have also sprung up as a result of the ripple effect of activities in the communities. He disclosed that HYPREP had gone into partnerships with the Rivers State Ministry of Water Resources to be able to provide water to more communities in Ogoniland; Rivers State Ministry of Health to carry out assessment of all medical facilities in Ogoniland; the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN) to provide training to Ogoni youths under the Sustainable Livelihood Program.

The Deputy High Commissioner and her team were later led by Dr. Dekil to pay a courtesy visit to the King of Eleme Kingdom, Emere Philip Obele in his palace where she was decorated and conferred with the title of Egbere Owa Ekoo, Eko of Eleme (Big woman and friend of Eleme Kingdom).

Ogoni Clean-up on track, Nigerians should support HYPREP – Bassey

Environmental Rights Activist, Nnimmo Bassey, has called on Ogonis and all Nigerians to support the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) in the on-going clean-up of Ogoniland.

Bassey made the call when he led a delegation of members of Oil Watch Africa from 15 African countries to HYPREP on an assessment visit to some remediation sites in Ogoniland.

Receiving the team, the Project Coordinator of HYPREP, Dr. Marvin Dekil who explained the processes adopted by HYPREP in the clean-up, informed the team that the clean-up project commenced eight years after the report was submitted to the Federal Government of Nigeria by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

In a statement by HYPREP, Dekil was quoted as saying that the time between the date of submission in 2011 and 2016 when the clean-up was officially flagged off by President Buhari necessitated the review and modification of some of the strategies recommended in the report.

The Project Coordinator said the review and modification of some of the strategies does not mean that HYPREP has deviated from the recommendations in the UNEP Report as all such modifications are done with the input of UNEP.

While inspecting one of the remediation sites, Bassey expressed satisfaction with the works HYPREP is doing and confirmed that remediation has commenced in Ogoniland.

He expressed disappointment that despite the several activities going on at various sites across Ogoniland, people are still saying the clean-up has not commenced. Bassey said he appreciates the anxiety of the people who expect to see the work move at a very fast pace but pointed out that the clean-up project is a highly technical and complex work that requires expertise, experience and a lot of preparation.

Speaking to HYPREP staff, Nnimmo Bassey said members of the Oil Watch Africa are in Port Harcourt for a conference on the impact of oil on the continent, adding that it was important for the team to visit Ogoniland to see the work that HYPREP is doing and to see the state of the cleanup efforts.

The environmental rights activist said the visit was also to enable members from other African countries learn about the consequences of pollution and how difficult it is to restore the environment after pollution has occurred. Bassey said keeping the environment clean was everybody’s business as hydrocarbon pollution affects both the environment and humans and urged all stakeholders to ensure that Ogoniland remains clean after the clean-up.

He dispelled speculations that HYPREP funds are being mismanaged, explaining that the structure set up for the management of finances and for appropriating funds for HYPREP project is very well set up.

Bassey who is also a member of the HYPREP Board of Trustees (BoT) stated that people of integrity with very stringent control over finances are on the board of the Project, adding that the funds for the Project is held by the Ogoni Trust Fund with community people and other stakeholders as signatories to the account and not a kobo goes out without due process.

“HYPREP office does not determine which fund is released and which fund is being used. The strict nature of the control and the milestone set by HYPREP and the whole organizational structure, the BOT, GC, PCO, is such that any fund to be released must be matched by clear set goals and what it is going to be used for,” Bassey said.

He said ‘the clean-up is an excellent avenue to get youths employed to multiply skills that can be extended to other Niger Delta communities by the time the remediation project is expanded. This is an incubation lab. We must do all we can to ensure that this is a success that the environment is restored’. He encouraged youths to take advantage of the employment and training opportunities that the Project offers.

He emphasized that Ogoni clean-up is a signature project and that everyone involved in the delivery of this project desires to leave a legacy. Bassey called on everyone who doubts the commencement of the clean-up to visit the remediation sites across Ogoniland to see things for themselves and urged everyone to be patient with HYPREP since remediation is on course.

FG to set up cassava processing centre in Ogoniland

The Federal Government says it is planning to set up a cassava processing centre in Ogoniland to serve as alternative source of livelihood for the people of the area.

According to Leadership, Dr Marvin Dekil, Project Coordinator, Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), under the Ministry of Enviroment, made the disclosure.

He was speaking at the graduation of 15 Ogonis from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Onne, Rivers.

According to Dekil, who was represented by HYPREP’s Head of Legal Services, Mrs Grace Ekanem, the centre will be used to generate income and make Ogoniland become an economic hub for cassava processing in the Niger Delta region.

“To this end, the 15 Ogonis whom we are graduating today were trained on fabrication of cassava processing machines.

“HYPREP will ensure their skills are put to good use with the set-up of a cassava processing centre that would generate income and create economic hub for the communities,’’ he said.

It will be recalled that through the projects carried out by HPREP under the supervision of the Ministry of Environment a lot has been achieved in  Ogoni land.

HYPREP  trained graduates who studied environmental sciences to build their capacity for the remediation work in Ogoni land, provision of portable water, medical outreach, empowerment of women and youths, and currently trained youths on the fabrication of gari processing machines.

The President Muhammadu Buhari’s led administration has shown commitment to the cleanup of Ogoni land, through the establishment of the Niger Delta New Vision, in which the people of the region are getting a better source of livelihood.

Buhari’s administration achieved the establishment of the Maritime University Okerenkoko Delta State, Ogoni health outreach programme where about 5, 1815 patients were attended to, and 65 surgical cases treated.

The administration has further shown commitment towards the Presidential Amnesty Programme, to ensure rehabilitation and sustainable re- integration of ex- agitators of the Niger Delta region, which is running smoothly.

The administration also ensured that indigenes of the region are placed on full academic scholarship in other for them to have access to quality education with monthly stipends etc.

The recent development shows the federal government’s commitment towards the development of the region

Meanwhile in a statement according to Dekil, the UNEP Report recommended that the Federal Government should provide alternative source of livelihood for oil impacted communities of Ogoniland.

“So, HYPREP, in a tripartite collaboration with the Stakeholders Democracy Network (SDN) and IITA, developed the template for the training aimed to empower Ogoni youths.

“Three months ago, we ushered in 15 young men and women into a life transforming training in the fabrication of machines for the processing of cassava.

“It has been a long journey for the trainees, who have had previous training in machine fabrication. The trainees are the first batch of the programme,” he said.

Dekil urged the trainees to leverage on the opportunities provided by the training to change their lives and become good ambassadors of their communities.

He commended the IITA and SDN for supporting the programme and assured the FG’s commitment to full implementation of the Ogoni clean-up exercise.

He added that no fewer than 400 women, 100 from each of the four local government areas that make up Ogoniland, would be trained on vocational skills in agriculture.

“The women will be trained for six months in different skills by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) at the Songhai farms (in Tai LGA of Rivers).

“The training will be in batches until a total of 1,200 Ogoni women are trained in the livelihood programme,” he assured.

Also speaking, Dr Richardson Okechukwu, Head of Station of IITA said the 15 trainees were taught how to fabricate basic processing machines for roasters, graters, presser, bhurr mill, sifter, peeling and cabinet dryer.

He said the centre specialised on agro-business and crop value-chain processing in cassava, plantain, maize and banana as well as post-harvest processing.

On his part, SDN’s Senior Project Officer, Jesse-Martin Manufor said that cassava is a staple food for many Nigerians as well as important cash crop that produces garri, starch and flour.

 

Ogoni Clean-Up: HYPREP, Rivers State Ministry partner to provide potable water for Ogoniland

The Rivers State Government has given approval to a request by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, HYPREP to re-activate state water facilities in Ogoniland as part of effort to provide potable water for Ogoni communities.

In a statement from HYPREP, the Rivers State Commissioner for Water Resources and Rural Development, Prof. Kaniye Ebeku gave the approval to HYPREP when the Project Coordinator, Dr. Marvin Dekil led a team of Management Staff to his office in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

Speaking at the meeting, Dr. Dekil informed the Commissioner and his team that HYPREP was set up with the mandate to remediate Ogoniland and provide sustainable livelihood for the people in line with UNEP Report, adding that in fulfilling this mandate HYPREP has a responsibility to provide potable water in the impacted communities as specified in the report.

The Project Coordinator said the visit was also to request for collaboration with the Rivers State Ministry of Water Resources and Rural Development in the provision of water in the impacted communities.  He said the request to collaborate with the Ministry was necessary to avoid duplication of projects.

Dr. Dekil explained that in the process of providing water in the impacted communities, HYPREP would need to access the existing water facilities towards rehabilitating them and also install new ones, in both cases he said, the technical expertise of the professionals in the Ministry will be needed especially as the initial facilities were installed by them.

The Project Coordinator assured the Commissioner that HYPREP projects were not at variance with the water policy of the Ministry which is community driven adding that every project of HYPREP was tailored towards community participation and ownership to ensure sustainability.

Prof. Ebeku commended the HYPREP Coordinator, for seeking collaboration with the State Government saying it will eliminate duplication of projects which would have amounted to waste of Government resources.  He called on other government agencies and development partners to emulate the HYPREP approach to project implementation.

The Commissioner assured Dr. Dekil of his full support and that of his team to the collaboration and said he will do everything within his power to fast track the process from the Ministry’s end to ensure that potable water is available in Ogoniland for the benefit of the people.

At the end of the meeting, a Committee comprising experts from the State Ministry of Water Resources and Rural Development and HYPREP was set up to work on the modalities for the collaboration towards the provision of potable water for the impacted communities in Ogoniland.

“Ogoni Clean-Up: The Buhari Administration is keeping its promise to Niger Delta”

By Arikpo Dum

After decades of struggles, Government’s attention was drawn to the plight of the people of Ogoni.  The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) was invited to undertake an assessment of oil pollution in Ogoniland with a view to finding a solution that will bring an end to the sufferings of Ogoni people.

In 2011, UNEP submitted a report to the Federal Government on Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland. Today, that document is popularly referred to as the “UNEP Report” among stakeholders.  The report contains detailed information on the assessment which covered contaminated land, ground water, surface water, sediment, vegetation, air pollution, public health, industry practice and institutional issues as well as recommendations and steps to be followed in carrying out the clean-up exercise.

On 2nd June 2016, the Federal Government flagged-off the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) with the mandate to Remediate the Environment and Restore the Livelihood of the people.

A Project Coordination Office (PCO) for HYPREP was set up to execute the clean-up project in Ogoniland headed by the Project coordinator, Dr. Marvin Dekil.  HYPREP being a Federal Government Project is fully guided by the rules and regulations that apply in public service.  To ensure full accountability and adherence to extant rules, staff from relevant Federal Ministries have been deployed to the project.  However, the project takes into consideration the integration of local content in every aspect of the process.  In this wise, the project has engaged, at various levels, manpower of different skills drawn from all the impacted communities.

The UNEP Report of 2011 which serves as a blueprint for the implementation of the clean-up of Ogoniland specifies some emergency measures that should be carried out prior to the remediation exercise to provide temporary relief to a people that have suffered years of no access to potable water and possible health challenges due to oil pollution.  In implementing the UNEP Report, HYPREP commenced activities to update the baseline data of the UNEP Report which was written since 2011. To ensure accuracy, HYPREP had to carry out the exercise of collecting soil, surface and underground water samples in order to have the current status of the level of impact of oil spillage on the communities prior to the provision of portable water which is one of the emergency measures recommended in the UNEP Report.

HYPREP also carried out medical out-reach that covered Gokana, Tai, Khana and Eleme Local government areas where patients with various medical conditions were attended to including surgeries. The medical out-reach was to enable HYPREP collect primary data on the health status of people before the commencement of health impact study in the communities of Ogoni to ascertain whether there is a link between some ailments in the land and oil pollution.

In this regard, HYPREP has followed due process to engage qualified companies to carry out assessment and  rehabilitation of existing water facilities; designing  and construction of comprehensive water schemes; public health consultancy for the provision of a holistic report for the implementation of the recommendations in the UNEP Environmental Assessment Report on Ogoniland; and environmental consultancy to carry out scoping and assessment of oil impacted sites assessed by UNEP including those not captured in Ogoni land. These projects cover the four local government areas of Ogoni land.

HYPREP has through its Communication and Community Engagement Unit carried out sensitization exercise to the 21 impacted communities while successfully engaging the Traditional Rulers, Faith Based Organizations, Women Groups, Youths, Pressure Groups, Civil Societies, members of the press and Stakeholders.

The Project Coordination Office has engaged series of processes in preparation for the remediation works aside from soil and water sampling.  HYPREP has carried out delineation and has successfully mapped out areas for remediation for all the sites covering depth and spread.  Young scientists and others with relevant professional qualification from Ogoni have been trained and are currently working in HYPREP.

The livelihood programme is also being implemented as collection of data is continuous. HYPREP has already commenced the training of youths in the fabrication of garri processing machines through a tripartite agreement between HYPREP, Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Onne, a programme that is scheduled to last for 3 months.  The Rivers State Government through the Ministry of Employment Generation and Economic Empowerment has also expressed readiness to collaborate and partner with HYPREP to train women and youths of Ogoni under the Sustainable Livelihood Programme. The best part of it is that several Ogoni youths that could have been in the labour market have been trained and employed by HYPREP, while others have been trained and are ready to be engaged by the contractors.

As a project of the Federal Government, all procurement processes adopted by HYPREP for the award of contract for the remediation works was in line with the Procurement Act of 2007. HYPREP has in keeping to the laid down procedure, followed due process in handling the award of contract for the clean-up project.  Advertisements were placed on 30th March, 2018 in Federal Tenders Journal, local and foreign media for expression of interest by contractors for remediation works.  The technical and financial bid opening exercise were conducted transparently and all Public Procurement Regulations were strictly followed as contained in the Public Procurement Manual. On the other hand, all companies bidding for contracts in any Government Agency are expected to possess stipulated documents and undergo pre-qualification processes as contained in the Public Procurement Act and this also applies to HYPREP.

At the end of the rigorous procurement process, 21 contractors who qualified were invited to a kick-off meeting to enlighten them on how the project will be managed, what is expected of them, engagement of local content, relationship with the host community and other issues that will enhance the smooth running of the project. On the other hand, HYPREP also carried out community by community engagement to sensitize them of the engagement of contractors for the first phase of the clean-up project and what they should expect from the contractors.  They were also sensitized on the role of the traditional council, youths, women groups, interest groups and the community in general to the success of the project first as watch dogs to ensure the contractors delivered quality work and also to ensure security and peace during and after the clean-up.

To show and further confirm to the people of Ogoni the commitment of the Federal Government and the importance it places on the project, In January, this year, the Honourable Minister of Environment, Surveyor Suleiman Hassan Zarma, performed the ceremony of presenting the contractors to the communities and site handover in Alode and Obolo-Ebubu communities in Eleme Local Government Area and Buemene-Korokoro in Tai Local Government Area while the Project Coordinator of HYPREP, Dr. Marvin Dekil led the delegation for the site handover ceremony in Khana and Gokana Local Government Areas. A total of 16 sites has so far been handed over to contractors by HYPREP in Eleme, Tai, Khana and Gokana Local Government areas of Ogoni.  This site handover has taken place despite doubts and series of propaganda to discredit HYPREP and undermine the intentions of the Federal Government for the Ogoni clean-up.

The Federal Government with good intent has re-engaged the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) – (the same UNEP that did the study that provided the basis for the report and recommendations) to work with HYPREP for the next 12 months to provide technical support and build the capacity of staff to empower them for optimum and effective performance. Yet people still say that HYPREP is a scam.

I am aware of growing concerns about the implementation of the emergency measures, as an observer I have been privileged to listen to the presentation by the Project Coordinator of HYPREP stating that the process for the implementation of emergency measures was at its final stage.  Presently, the list of pre-qualified companies for the provision of potable water have been released on all HYPREP official social media platforms.  Just as he promised, shortly contractors will also be introduced to site for the provision of potable water for the impacted communities.

Since its inception till date, HYPREP has recorded several milestones in coordinating the processes for the commencement of the remediation work in Ogoniland. The Federal Government has stayed committed to its promise to clean Ogoniland.

In my opinion, rather than sponsor negative propaganda against HYPREP and the Federal Government, people that feel things should be done differently should approach HYPREP to iron things out. The Ogoni clean-up is the best thing that has happened to the people of Ogoni after four decades of struggles.  The great people of Ogoni should all form a united front and support HYPREP.  The Youths should secure their territory and ensure the environment is peaceful for the contractors to operate successfully.

The energy and resources used in sponsoring propaganda to bring down HYPREP should be channelled into supporting activities that will add value to the people of Ogoni.  Let every true Ogoni and all Nigerians support HYPREP in the Ogoni clean-up project.

 

Duum, a social commentator, writes from Port Harcourt, Rivers State