Cleanup: Ogoni Urges Buhari to Caution HYPREP on Management of Funds
Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt
A forum of Ogoni Elders and Leaders of Thought, ‘Gbo Kabaari Ogoni’ has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene and prevail on the leadership of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) for a proper management of funds meant for the project through the agency.
This is as the group has alleged that the agency plans to award contracts to unqualified companies not regarding the depth of degradation in the land by oil spillage.
In a statement signed by the acting Chairman, John Uebari and Secretary, Prof. Alubabari Nbete of Gbo Kabaati Ogoni, the group raised the alarmed by what appears to be another round of contracts of nontransparent and doubtful credibility going on in HYPREP.
“As elders of our people, Gbo Kabaari Ogoni hereby calls on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, the relevant officials of government and the Bureau on Public Procurement to nip the planned pillaging of the project’s funds in the bud by prevailing on HYPREP and those in charge of its affairs to ensure proper management and administration of the project’s funds in order for it to actualize the desired purpose.”
The forum, stressed that it had severally harped on the short listing and award of remediation contracts to unqualified companies, lamented that such alleged fraudulent practices were forcing the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to pull out from remediating the polluted Ogoni environment.
It expressed: “We have on several occasions in the recent past raised serious concerns about the opaque contracting processes evidenced by shortlisting and award of remediation contracts to unqualified companies, several complaints by communities and other stakeholders that despite huge expenditures, HYPREP has not impacted on the communities, among other anomalies.
“This regrettable situation has necessitated UNEP, whose association with the project gave it some needed credibility, giving notice that it would quit because it no longer wants to be associated with the project.
“Rather than these unwholesome practices abating or steps taken to address them, Gbo Kabaari is sadly alarmed to see current efforts by some highly placed officers at the helm of affairs in the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) to syphon humongous sums of money meant for the execution of clean-up, remediation, livelihood and various other projects under the Ogoni clean-up through what appears to be a contract bazaar.”
The group revealed that the clean-up contracts had been earmarked for award to predetermined contractors with whom agreements had been allegedly “reached on the formula for sharing the amounts of money earmarked for their respective lots with the HYPREP officials involved and their patrons.”
The forum said it gathered that some individuals and groups in Ogoni that were considered capable of opposing the alleged looting arrangement had been attached to various contractors who would give them financial empowerment to kill the people’s agitation “for transparency, fairness and compliance with global best practices and extant laws on local content in the award of contracts.”
It declared: “For the avoidance of doubts and for the records, Gbo Kabaari Ogoni, distances itself from, and completely condemns these practices that would cripple the Project and further exacerbate the predicament of Ogoni people.
“In urging HYPREP to exhibit utmost transparency, professionalism and a sense of fairness to Ogoni in the management of the project, particularly in the award of contracts, we demand HYPREP, in line with global best practices, to publish the lots for which contracts are being awarded, including their locations, the name of the contractor(s) to whom the contract(s) is/are awarded, the contract value and other relevant information, including the scope of work.”