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“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

 

Ogoni clean-up: HYPREP commence provision of potable water in Ogoniland

Towards the implementation of the UNEP Report on the provision of emergency measures (water supply and health study), the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) has commenced the survey and sampling of drinking water sources in the impacted communities of Ogoniland.

The exercise, which started in November and lasted for 10 days, was carried out from house to house and also within a radius of 500m from each impacted site. The aim was to ascertain the extent of contamination   of drinking water sources in the impacted Ogoni communities to obtain baseline data that will guide HYPREP in the preparation of bid documents.

A total of 600 water samples will be collected and analysed from 47 impacted communities across the four Local Government Areas of Ogoniland, namley , namely Eleme, Gokana, Tai and Khana.

According to a statement from the Project Coordination Office, “HYPREP will not leave any stone unturned in carrying out its mandate as it has continued to get the unwavering support of President Muhammadu Buhari led administration to ensure a successful clean-up of Ogoniland and restoration of livelihood.”

For the Records: #7BigWins in Focus – Big win 5 – Niger Delta and security

By Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu

*Puts in focus a “blueprint for Niger Delta’s development that can be sustained for posterity”

Let me welcome you to an 8 parts serial podcast that will look critically at the 7 big wins that were instruments of our intervention in the oil industry when we came in and see how we fared in each of those and what we need to do going forward.

All over the world these 7 big wins has been praised as a right model for intervention. But, let us now go neck deep and get a 3D view of what really has happened. In this edition, we are going to focus strictly on the Niger Delta security issues; what we met, what we did, what the future holds for us.

His Excellency, the President was kind enough and gracious enough to appoint me with the twin positions of both the GMD of the NNPC and the Minister of State for Petroleum. Niger Delta was a burning issue at the time. There was key unrest in Niger Delta, a huge amount of militant activities going on. There was reduction in production volumes, so much reduction leading to a consistent loss that led us almost to a cripple in the oil industry. Actually, at the lowest point we were down to about 800,000 barrels. All the infrastructure that we had were compromised; vandalism and militancy compelled the integrity of the infrastructure to disappear.

These sustained attacks continued for over a 10-month period. In February 2016 for example; the Forcados oil export line was breached, leading to very major attacks in other oil and gas assets. In May 2016, the Nembe creek truck line was attacked; in November 2016, series and series of attacks.

What else did we meet? We met the complete absence of a coordinated effort at developing the Niger Delta development model. There was, therefore, a consistent lack of investors’ interest in Niger Delta area, because of what really had happened was that with all the militancy attacks, uncertainties on policies, the lack of coordination in terms of development, everybody basically watched for what the next alarm bell was going to be.

The sheer amount of problems that we inherited in Niger Delta meant that literally if nothing was done, the country was getting crippled; no money for investments, no money for infrastructures, no money to run the budgets. We had to move in very rapidly with the support of His Excellency, the President.

We dealt with three main fundamentals. We decided to deal first with the environment and security issues. What were we going to do about that environment, the issues that had been burning in all the areas of Niger Delta?

The first thing we realized was that the one-on-one engagements, as good as they were, were obviously not leading us to the Promised Land. Of course, I did the whole yeoman’s job of taking a tour on the Niger Delta myself and getting into the creeks, at very great risk to my life and that of a lot of my staff, to engage the militants in their domain. I think the advantage in that was that it brought understanding and we then began a sustained community engagement.

The first thing we did was to work with the leaders of the areas to work towards the setting up of the PANDEF group. We thank all the PANDEF members; leader, Chief Clark and all of them who did fantastic work in trying to put together this Pan-Niger Delta Forum. We worked coordinating with them. So once that was set up, it was easy to have a body that could engage the Federal Government.

Then we dealt with the issue of Ogoni clean-up. The President had made a promise during his campaign that he was going to take this as a burning issue and he did and he inaugurated the Ogoni clean-up process that was launched very ceremoniously and we began the engagements and the financing that will enable us address the Ogoni cleanup. But not only Ogoni needs to be cleaned up, a whole lot of other areas need to be cleaned up. This is basically the beginning map on which we are going to work.

We came up with the Nigerian Gas Flare Commercialization Programme, which was trying to address the exit of flare. The United Nations had set a 2030 deadline; we set a 2020 deadline. We are aggressive about it because we knew that unless the environmental issues in Niger Delta were addressed, no amount of investment would get a buy-in with the people.

With all the sustained engagements that we had, we had series of ceasefires which enabled us to bring back production volumes. In December 2015, we had a 30-day ceasefire agreement. It brought back production rapidly from the all-time low of about 800,000 barrels to about 2.2 million barrels. In June 2016, we had another 60-day ceasefire agreement, which lasted for a while. In April 2017, leading up from the 60-day ceasefire that continued and working with PANDEF and other elements, and with the assistance of the Vice President’s visit; we got to a point where we basically moved our production to an all-time 800,000 barrels volume to volumes in region of 2.2 million barrels.

We looked at infrastructure and not only did we deal with repairing some of the infrastructures that were broken down to enable oil begin to flow again. We came up with the concept of what to do with the illegal refining that was going on in the region. So, we came up with the modular refinery concept. Till date, we have targeted development and approved about 10 of those; two are basically on land now and beginning to construct. Hopefully, within the next one year, we will be able to deliver real results. But we are pushing for the other eight.

The AKK Pipeline that had been abandoned for a very long time was put back. The Federal Executive Council approved this and now engagements are going on to sort out this contract and begin that construction. That AKK pipeline will enable you deliver gas from the South into the North and open up gas delivery to homes, and development in terms of petrochemicals. So it is a huge infrastructure development.

We have been able to go visit some of these modular refineries. We visited the one in Ogbele, in Rivers State; we also have visited the one in Kwale (Delta State). Those are the two that are basically on ground and ready to take off. But there are 8 additional ones that are basically all getting ready for completion for financing and moving on.

But, the area where I think we have done a lot of work is in Capacity Building and Economic Empowerment. The greatest problem of Niger Delta has been that it’s not because money hasn’t gone in. Inter-agency researches have shown that over $40 billion have gone into Niger Delta in a period of, maybe, 15 years.

So what we’ve tried to do, was working under the Office of the Vice President, to try and working in conjunction with the Ministry of Niger Delta, Ministry of Environment, NDDC, NNPC, Oil companies, everybody; we were able to show the sheer amount of money over a period of time that had gone in, and the sheer amount of money that was available still to go in. And that led to a very integrated work that produced a report that enabled us to see what everybody’s budget was and what we needed to do. It ran into trillions.

And so working under an inter-ministerial group put under the Vice President, we’ve now began to build capacity, and build economic empowerment on the grounds of that and making sure that we supervise each of those intervening government agencies to do what they are supposed to do and the oil companies to take up also their responsibilities.

But we have also gone further than that. I have gone ahead to set up State technical committees and gone from state to state to take that whole vision and give it fruition. So, in those states, with the State Governments being the Chairmen of some of those; we have had our own representatives; we’ve had oil companies’ representatives, we’ve had Government Agencies. And the whole idea is to look at the blueprint of what oil is produced in a state, what volumes are available, what opportunities for economic empowerment are there and what are the burning issues in those areas. These technical committees have been launched in three states; in Edo State, in Delta State and in Imo State, and we are looking to complete that whole process.

If we succeed in doing that, for the first time, what you are going to have is a complete blueprint, complete local engagement, complete local intervention and supervision of the Niger Delta development model and that is something that can be sustained for posterity.

So, those interventions have helped; those technical teams have helped. Like I said, we’ve done it in about three states. We are going to continue to push the envelope in other states. Now, obviously in all these have rallied from the initial work done when we first started with all the problems we had, to the Vice President’s visit that was monumentally successful and helpful; to obviously the presidential cloak that has been given to this to make it succeed.

Where do we go from here? A lot of work still needs to be done, let’s not kid ourselves. What we have done is take a very difficult environment and bring some sanity to it.

So today, when we celebrate over 2 million barrels, when we celebrate $75, $77 price in oil, when we celebrate enhanced and increasing reserve size for this country, when we celebrate the highest capital budgets that this country has seen in decades, it is all because we found a way to find sanity in this very, very difficult environment. But we still have a lot of work to do.

Those engagements we talked about with the state technical committees are a key pivot; we must sustain and complete the process. And thereafter, there must be active; and there must, on a month-to-month basis, explore what the opportunities are, and ensure that the local populace are getting those opportunities.

There are regulatory interventions; the Assembly is working hard at PIB, and there’s Host Community Bill they are also doing. All these Bills, when passed, will give legal parameters to some of the interventions that are essential and create a sustained platform for these interventions in the future.

The President is completely committed to the success of this and we are working with the Ministry of Environment to continue the Ogoni clean-up. I have just directed that funds necessary for this must be released with a very short period of time so that this Ogoni clean-up can actually move from the drawing board to actual practical realities. And I’ve called on both NNPC and the oil companies to fund this sufficiently for us to move forward.

We’ve also began a programme to engage the Ogonis where there has been substantial problems, to get the community buy-in; to get the community’s participation. A few weeks ago, we held the Ogoni re-entry meetings. We are going to get into some of those, and not just Ogoni, but a lot of the areas to see how we can get people to believe gain and have faith in the processes that we are rolling out.

We are currently working on a framework for community-based participation in the protection of oil and gas pipelines, and oil and gas assets. How do we get the communities to take ownership of these pipelines, protect them, ensure an efficient delivery without complications and also ensure that in future they get benefits from some of the economic interventions that come out of all of these?

So, a whole lot of work needs to be done. It is almost like you are looking at the bill of rights in some of these areas. How do we develop things that people are entitled to; people execute, communities are involved, constant engagements continue, and the Government’s interest in this continues to ride.

But this where we met security, this is where we met the Niger Delta, this is what we have done in the two and a half, three years that we have been there. But like I said, the work continues.

What we can say is that provided Government continues to focus, provided the oil companies continue to focus on their key social responsibilities in these areas, provided that Government Agencies that are given responsibilities for intervention continue to carry out their jobs, provided communities realize that, at the end of the day, destruction of platforms leads to nothing but confusion and mayhem; but that working together with the Government, we can create an equitable problem-solving mechanism, provided State Governments and security apparatus carry out security intervention for peace in a manner that respects the fundamental human rights of citizens; we actually can take leverage from the total world attention that is looking at the work that we are doing in this area and get Niger Delta to where it should be.

Thank you very much for listening.

Kachikwu is the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources

(Podcast on May 23, 2018)

Nigeria oil spills: Shell begins clean-up after 10-year delay

The clean-up of a contaminated fishing community in Nigeria has finally started, almost 10 years after two oil spills in Niger River Delta.

In 2008 and 2009, Royal Dutch Shell’s 55-year-old pipeline ruptured and spilled millions of litres of crude oil into the creeks and shores of Bodo.

Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris reports from Bodo in the Niger Delta.

Source: Aljazeera