Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth (ERA/FoEN) has accused the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREB) of allegedly deviating from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recommen-dation in the cleanup of Ogoni land.
The environmental rights group said eight years after the UNEP report was released, the federal government has been paying lip service to the cleanup of Ogoniland, while also decrying the lack of clarity on the process after four years of President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
The Executive Director of ERA, Dr. Godwin Ojo, disclosed this yesterday at a press conference in Abuja.
He said there was a fundamental deviation by HYPREP from the recommendations, adding that the absence of Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Centre as well as Centre of Excellence to train Ogoni people and raise the needed manpower for the cleanup is unfortunate.
Ojo said: “In July 2019 during ERA’s monitoring visit to clean-up sites in Ogoni, ERA field monitors, media representatives, community leaders and leaders of civil society organisations were prevented by youths in Alode and Ejama Ebubu communities in Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State from inspection.
“We condemn the militarisation of the clean-up process by HYPREP’s surrogates, and in particular, the prevention of ERA-led volunteers to carry out inspection of the sites.”
He insisted that independent field monitors required no approval before inspection of any polluted sites hence HYPREP attitude was rather surprising, stressing: “What’s HYPREP hiding? Why are they refusing to open up to the people?”
Against this background, Ojo called on the federal government to call HYPREP to order and halt the deviation, and implement the UNEP report following the detailed recommendation of the United Nations agency.
He added: “The National Assembly should carry out its responsibility and conduct oversight function on the cleanup with a view to tracking the fund released, and ensure that 2019 outstanding $200 million is paid promptly.
“HYPREP should as a matter of urgency conduct emergency relief measures. In particular, it should highlight a short term measure for providing portable drinking water to the community.
“HYPREP should engage experts with local technical knowledge of Ogoni land in order to develop a proper key performance indicators and feasible work plan to indicate short, medium and longer term goals of the project life cycle
“Shell should also immediately withdraw from HYPREP governance structures as this will compromise the clean-up process.”
Ojo advised Shell not to force the RENA cleanup and remediation technique on the clean-up process since UNEP report clearly indicates that the system is not suitable for cleanup of Ogoniland.