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How Bureaucratic hurdles hinder Ogoni Clean Up project

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Ogoni Clean Up

Anxiety is mounting that government bureaucratic hurdles were hindering the Ogoni environmental remediation project.

Already, Ogoni stakeholders are demanding for a total overhaul of the cleanup a project based on recent United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) assessment that the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) set up by the Federal Government was neither designed nor structured to implement a project as complex and sizable as the Ogoniland clean up.

This is just as the Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Dr. Nnimmo Bassey, insisted that the Federal Government doesn’t have to wait for specially built Centres of Excellence and soil before the clean up is carried out, as they are essential aspects of UNEP report.

He said these could actually commence without the construction of dedicated buildings, adding: “A major concern is that whatever happens now should be indicative of what needs to cover horrendously polluted Niger Delta.”

UNEP had rated HYPREP zero for its inability to provide emergency measures, 80 per cent of which is supposed to be the provision of potable drinking water at an estimated cost of $63,750.000 to communities with contaminated water supply.

The UN agency, which conducted the extensive scientific environmental audit of Ogoni, rated HYPREP five per cent on the clean up of land contamination.

UNEP had also bemoaned the failure of HYPREP to clean up Benzene contamination at Nsisioken Ogale in Eleme; clean up of sediments, restoration of artisanal refiners, restoration and rehabilitation of mangrove and establishment of the Centre for Excellence in Restoration.

The Guardian gathered from a member of HYPREP Governing Council that institutional obstacles have been mainly responsible for the inability of HYPREP to implement key UNEP recommendations on the Ogoni clean up, saying it has been impossible for HYPREP to spend funds on some of the emergency actions, such as provision of potable drinking water for Ogoni people.

“Theoretically, the HYPREP Board was supposed to be spending $200 million a year, but because of procurement issues, it is has been very difficult. I can tell you that there has been some procurement that has been on the budget for the past two years.

“We approved a water project for Ogoni in 2018, up till now, the procurement process is still on, though it is about to be concluded so that they can start work.

“What has happened is that we have had to push these key things and re-budget them for 2021. That is one area of weakness; spending capacity and budget implementation have been very low because of institutional obstacles, especially procurement,” he said.

The Guardian’s findings revealed that HYPREP’s budget for this year barely exceeded $30 million, a far cry from the $50 million recommended for the to clean up of Benzene contamination at Nsisioken-Ogale in Eleme alone.

Leader of Gbo Kaabari Ogoni, Dr. Benetti Birabi, decried delays in payments and project execution despite funding of the clean up, noting that while Ogoni people believe the $1billion recommended for the clean up by UNEP may need to be reviewed to reflect the emerging procurement dynamics and inflationary pull, they were unhappy with the slow pace of the project.

“We note with displeasure that despite the widely reported $350 million, which has so far been earmarked for the project, and despite the clearly outlined recommendations, which ought to be implemented concurrently, the project handlers chose to implement only one minute segment at snail speed, with an undisclosed chunk of the funds said to be lying in the bank accounts controlled by the Board of Trustees (BoT) of HYPREP, with no disclosure as to what interests have accrued thereon,” he said.

President of Ogoni Youth Federation, Yamaabana Legborsi, wondered why government has failed to send a bill to the National Assembly for a law that would give HYPREP life of its own.

He stated that a recent lawsuit filed by some Ogoni youths with the intent to make HYPREP account for its activities in Ogoni suffered a setback, because the court ruled that HYPREP was not a legal entity.

Legborsi said the continuous existence of HYPREP as an agency set up by a mere gazetted presidential directive was an indication that the government does not accord the project the priority it deserves.

According to him, an agency that exists at the pleasures and mercies of the President cannot be relied on effectively to tackle decades of environmental degradation of Ogoniland, saying: “HYPREP, has meanwhile, carried out a survey of the water reticulating distances in Ogoni for the supply of potable water in the communities. During the survey, HYPREP discovered 10 existing water schemes that would be rehabilitated and are expected to supply about 10,950,000 litres of water per day to the communities.

“On the cleanup, the first set of 21 contractors who are at various stages of the remediation processes were expected to finalise work by end of November this year.”

Meanwhile, as the tenure of the Board of HYPREP elapsed last month, vested interest groups have been lobbying behind the scene to replace members.

The Guardian gathered that the groups, with political influence, were also jostling behind the scene for possible replacement of HYPREP Project Coordinator, Dr. Marvin Dekil, whose tenure ends by March next year, although it is subject to renewal.

The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) has vowed to resist the reported attempt to impose those to represent Ogoni on the apex structures of HYPREP.

MOSOP spokesperson, Bari-ara Kpalap, said some self-seeking persons conniving with their external sponsors have made nominations to the Governing Council and the BoT of HYPREP through the backdoor and on behalf of Ogoni without the consent and approval of the accredited structures of the people.

To Bassey, there has not been the provision of potable drinking water and health facilities in impacted communities, saying work should be starting soon on water project at six locations, followed by new comprehensive schemes.

“The water supply contracts are being carried out by HYPREP. The bids have been opened and we expect to see work on the sites, such as the rehabilitation of dilapidated systems that had been more or less abandoned.”

On the issue of funding of the cleanup, Bassey said the important point was that majority of the polluters have put forward the amounts expected of the stakeholders for two years and “have paid up for 2018 and 2019, not forgetting that 10 per cent of the expected funds were supposed to come from sundry sources, including the refineries.

Reacting to the development, Dekil said HYPREP has expended $9,910,560.24 on the clean up of Ogoniland, adding that discussion was ongoing with the management of Bori Polytechnic for temporary commencement of the centres of excellence.

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