Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) has called on the people of Ogoni land in Rivers State to be patient with the agency as it was working hard to implement the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on the clean-up of the area.
HYPREP has also said it was carrying out an update of the UNEP Report considering that it was submitted since 2011 and the state of the impacted sites could have been altered.
The Project Coordinator of HYPREP, Dr. Marvin Dekil, while addressing journalists in Port Harcourt yesterday as part of activities marking his 100 days in office, said he was aware that people feel that the clean-up of Ogoniland had not taken off.
He stated that according to the UNEP Report, planning for the take-off of the clean-up would take up to 18 months and pleaded with the people of Ogoni to exercise patience.
Dekil, who was appointed the Project Coordinator of the HYPREP last January but officially assumed office on March 1, said: â€œWe have used the last one hundred days to lay a proper foundation for the project administratively (staffing and furnishing) and to embark on take-off projects both in the office and in the field.â€
He also said the HYPREP had embarked on the update of the Baseline data of UNEP Report because of the time lapse between the time the report was submitted and the take-off of the exercise.
â€œThe UNEP report was submitted to the federal government in 2011 and between then and now there have been changes in the nature and characteristics of the impacted sites that were studied in the report and in addition there have been other impacted sites that were not captured in the UNEP report.
â€œTo have an accurate and up-to-date data on these sites we have collected new samples (soil, water-surface and underground) at various demonstration sites at Kwawa, K-Dere, Korokoro and Ogale communities,â€ he said.
The HYPREP project coordinator said part of the emergency measures taken by the Project included the setting up of a four-man committee on water to identify and evaluate existing water facilities in the four local government areas of Ogoni.
â€œThis was done in line with the recommendation of the UNEP report that before any clean-up of the oil impact environment of Ogoni is done the people be provided with potable water as their sources of drinking water is contaminated 900 times above what the World Health Organisation (WHO) considers pollution,â€ he said.
He also explained: â€œWe have carried our three broad-based sensitisation to the people of Ogoni. They are media sensitisation, community sensitisation and meeting with Ogoni leaders and ex-artisanal refiners.
â€œWe did not limit our sensitisation to the Mass media. We went to the impacted communities where the action is and the communities include, Kwawa in Khana local government area, as well as Bodo, Kpor and K-Dere in Gokana local government area.
â€œOthers communities are Ogale and Ebubu in Elements local government area, as well as Korokoro-Tai and Ueken-Tai in Tai local government area.â€
As part of his achievements, Dekil said: â€œWe also trained about 15 Ogoni sons and daughters who studied Environmental Sciences to be our technical assistants in remediation. The training was done between June 5 and 8, 2017. It has two parts; a classroom discussion and a field visit for practical. The training was done in collaboration with the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC). The field visit was witnessed by the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, His Excellency, Edward Kallou.â€
He also said the project had met with the leadership of Ogoni Ex-Artisanal Refiners.
â€œWe had to enlighten them about the project and they promised not to involve in such activities again having got our message that the trade is harmful to their health, the society and the environment. We gave them the task of identifying the skills they would want us to train them in as an alternative source of livelihood for them,â€ Dekil said.