By Akpos Oghenetega,
The Environmental Right Action and Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has expressed delight over the N6 Billion approved by the Federal Executive Council, FEC, for the provision of potable water for oil-polluted Ogoni Communities.
ERA/FoEN also advocated that a Centre of Excellence for the Ogoni cleanup process be established by Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Projects (HYPREP).
The Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo made this known in a press statement made available to our Correspondent in Benin.
He argued that the federal government environmental legacy project in the last four years has been a story of misplaced priorities, politicized clean up, the personal interest of board members overriding the interest of delivering a world-class cleanup process and the critical need to save the lives of our people affected by environmental devastation.
“The slow pace of the clean-up and faulty procurement processes are key areas that the present crop of managers should urgently address.”
Going further, Ojo stated that the new managers should also “ensure that the major pillar of the clean-up process which is the establishment of the Centre of Excellence to provide capacity building for HYPREP staff and the Ogonis, and document lessons learnt for the replication of the clean-up in the entire polluted Niger Delta is restored.”
Ojo called on the Federal Ministry of Environment and HYPREP to make the contractual terms and costs for the over N6 billion water projects public so that local communities, civic groups and even the international community can monitor and evaluate the success of this very important and people-oriented aspect of the project adequately.
He also harped on the need for a more inconclusive and participatory project design and implementation process against the shortcomings experienced in the last four years.
“It is critical that there are community and civil society participation in drawing up short-term and long-term Work plans, Key Performance Indicators and milestones for the next five years of the project. Any progress from the clean-up should be seen in the scope and quality of environmental remediation and recovery, improvement in the fishing and farming occupations and livelihoods of the Ogonis.
“Ojo called on the Federal Government to urgently appoint a substantive Coordinator for HYPREP and immediately replace Prof Phillip Shokolo, the Shell nominee at the HYPREP coordination office who presently acts as the interim coordinator in the absence of a substantive coordinator. “Shell is a major culprit in the ecocide that the Ogoni environment and society are experiencing. It is inconceivable that a Shell nominated staff that was part of the Shell operations responsible for the pollution of Ogoniland is presiding over HYPREP activities and the clean-up and remediation process,” added Dr Ojo
Recall that the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria had surmised from a majority of Ogonis and reports of its team of monitors around the project areas that HYPREP was not working with optimal capacity. The agency had almost completely derailed from the goals and objectives set out in the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Ogoni environmental Assessment report of 2011 leading to unnecessary delays and poor remediation work due to some unqualified contractors.
ERA/FoEN and its partners, Milieudefensie/Friends of the Earth Netherlands, Amnesty International and community groups in its groundbreaking report titled: “No Cleanup, No Justice”, issued in 2020 called for the complete overhaul of the HYPREP structure because of the lack of synergy between the operations of HYPREP and the UNEP report recommendations on the one hand as well as the needs of local communities in Ogoni on the other.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, March 12, 2021, inaugurated a 13-member Governing Council and a 10-member Board of Trustees of the Ogoni Trust Fund on Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP).
The Minister of Environment, Dr Mohammad Abubakar, is the Chairman of the governing council while Mr Michael Nwileaghi is the Chairman of the board of trustees.