Group Wants Retention of HYPREP in Environment Ministry
Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt
A civil society group under the aegis of African Indigenous Foundation for Energy and sustainable Development (AIFES) has urged the federal government to allow its agency overseeing the Ogoni cleanup exercise, Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), remain in the Ministry of Environment.
Reacting to the plan to move HYPREP to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, the group insisted that the agency’s rightful place should be in the Ministry of Environment for successful achievement of mandate.
The group made the call at its one-day event to mark the 11th year anniversary of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Speaking at the programme, the former President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Mr. Legborsi Pyagbara, stressed that the recent battle between Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs is a symptomatic indication of the battle to take over the whole project.
He said even if there should be a movement in such direction, the three major actors in the pollution and cleanup of Ogoni should be notified.
Pyagbara said: “I have contacted Shell Managing Director, and he didn’t know about it. The three entities-the community, Shell and government-are to agree that this agency has been under Environment Ministry, and we don’t like how they are going about it, so we need to move it to Niger Delta Affairs.
“The question is if you refuse to create Ogoni Environmental Authority under the guise that they want it to be a national project. Why do you want to bring it to Niger Delta Affairs to make it look like a Niger Delta project? Bringing it to Niger Delta Affairs makes no longer the national project it intended from the beginning.”
He disclosed that various researches have found lack of transparency and accountability in the cleanup process and as well frequent change of minister has contributed in slowing down the process.
Pyagbara also disclosed that Ogoni people still drink polluted water with hydrocarbon, adding that there was a serious lack in capacity, alleging that most contractors contracted for the cleanup are inexperienced.
However, in the communique at the end of the meeting, the group resolved and demanded “the retention of the HYPREP project in the Federal Ministry of Environment but with the quasi-independence it requires to carry out its responsibilities as was negotiated.”
It demanded the “establishment of a people-driven Monitoring and Evaluation Programme which must be composed of members of the civil society, people of the community, HYPREP and other experts.”