Ogoni Cleanup: Civil society group decries absence of baseline study by HYPREP.

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, has expressed worry over the absence of a baseline study of Ogoniland by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, HYPREP ahead of the commencement of the cleanup of oil polluted sites in the area.

CISLAC says the absence of such baseline study would make it impossible for stakeholders, including communities, civil society organisations, journalists and other observes to effectively assess the effectiveness and extent of job done by contractors on the exercise.

Auwal Ibrahim Musa of CISLAC, Abuja while presenting “An Overview of the UNEP Report”, at a one-day Media Engagement with Senior Environment Editors in Port Harcourt raised so many unanswered questions in relation to the cleanup exercise insisting that, for effective implementation of the cleanup exercise, HYPREP should provide satisfactory answers to the questions.

He complained about absence of transparency in the management of the process so far accusing HYPREP of being involved in high level of politics. “They have something to hide from some of their body language at various levels of engagements on the process, he stated.

Musa observed that there were eight emergency measures stipulated by UNEP to be addressed before the commencement of the exercise lamenting that none of the emergency measures has been fully addressed.

He wondered why HYPREP could not provide alternative source of potable water for the people, conduct a health audit and provide alternative source of livelihood for the people who pollution has destroyed their source of livelihood; fishing and farming.

He blamed failure of governance for the poor implementation of the process and warned that the government should not lose the singular opportunity of getting the life of Ogoni people back.

“The opportunity for the development of the Niger Delta has been lost but the opportunity to get the people’s life back, if we lose it now, it will never be recovered. This is because oil is getting less attractive and soon no one will be under any pressure to come and clean up the polluted environment and we will be stocked with our polluted environment”.

In his presentation, Young Kigbara, Chairman, Civil Society Coalition for the Implementation of UNEP Report in Ogoni lamented that the environment of the Niger Delta is now a liability to people living in the region and that it was gradually spreading to affect everyone.

He lamented that the cleanup process was a very disorganised one saying; “what we have anticipated is not what we are seeing”.

Kigbara, a native of Ogoni with firsthand experience of pollution and some of the effects alleged deep corruption in the cleanup process. He said there was on-going insider trading using pseudo companies.

He queried the capacity of HYPREP to manage the process alleging; “employment in connection with the cleanup is based on closeness to one insider or the other. Are you aware that some politicians had to take money from there to finance their political campaigns?”

He went on; “They are doing things the way they are not supposed to because people want to become billionaires and millionaires from the process. The risks the communities are faced is not what they are concerned about. They are more interested in the ones from which they can make money”.

Kigbara explained that growing up in the village he experienced firsthand, some of the oil spills that sent communities fleeing at night. “It pains me that having gone through all that, you see an opportunity to make it right and it being mismanaged”, he lamented.

He called on governments at all levels to rise up to do something seriously about the cleanup exercise with each tier of government living up to it share or responsibilities to ensure the cleanup exercise was urgently and effectively done.