CSOs disagree with HYPREP on success story
By Innocent Eteng
Birds now fly about t the beaches of Bodo in Ogoni and government agencies are claiming its sign of clean up success. Now Civil society groups have said its not true, insisting that the phenomenon was seasonal, not a sign of success.
Several civil society organisations (CSOs) have therefore faulted the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) over claims that the return and flocking of certain birds in some parts of Ogoni, in Rivers State, is indicative that HYPREP and the federal government have made progress in the Ogoni cleanup process.
“We contend strongly that the only success story of the cleanup has been that ‘birds now flock the seashore of Bodo’ as opposed to when the cleanup had not taken place, which is only a fluke – as the flocking of birds to most seashores is seasonal,” said Young Pigbara, chairman of the Civil Society Coalition (CISOC), a conglomerate of several CSOs.
The CSOs took the stance on Thursday, October 4, while reviewing emergency measures and the entire cleanup progress during the quarterly engagement meeting of CSOs, coalitions and communities organized by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in Port Harcourt.
This is even as the CSOs have promised to be more ruthless in demanding rapid action from HYPREP.
“The situation calls for anger. I am not saying we should carry guns, but we have to be angry about the situation that is not going well. We (CSOs) should not do the US and UK style of doing civil society. It cannot be the same. You cannot do that and succeed here,” said Pigbara, amid cheers that echoed agreement.
The CSOs and coalitions said in Bodo, one of the many polluted communities that HYPREP is using as its success story, HYPREP merely kick-started a process that is way below international best practices, a deviation from the recommendations of the 2011 United Nations Environment Programme’s report.
They accused HYPREP of dumping bags of contaminated soil on the same area purported to have been cleaned.
The UNEP report says it requires not less than one billion dollars to clean Ogoni that has for long been polluted by oil spills. UNEP also said it would take over 30 years of remediation to return Ogoni land to its natural state.
Part of a press statement, which Pigbara read on behalf of participating CSOs and coalitions, said: “We are appalled at the ineptitude of the Federal Government, HYPREP and Shell, their mischievous partner at effectively implementing the recommendations of the reports on Ogoni.
“We are worried that ever since the federal government assured Nigerians in 2016 that the actual implementation had started, very little has been achieved on the implementation of the cleanup activities. The emergency measures (like provision of drinking water) which ought to have been implemented completely, first, have been abandoned by HYPREP.
“(We) observed carefully that dangerous revelations, which the UNEP made on the lives of the Ogoni, who breathe in lethally polluted environment is not felt for by the government at all levels and even HYPREP as it has treated the implementation of the emergency measures as recommended with levity – there is no urgency in the actions of HYPREP, federal government.
“The coalitions express fears that HYPREP and the federal government do not seem to appreciate the enormous danger, which the entire Ogoni face as they daily eat food and drink water containing carcinogens – poisons.
“We are also afraid that rather than going into the actual implementation of the projects, HYPREP appears to have settled for the fan-fare of professional organising of stakeholders meeting at expensive hotels in Abuja and Port Harcourt, which in our opinion are not strategic. Such meetings are needed more in Ogoni communities where the stakeholders will feel free and understand what exactly is happening around the people. Moreover, the impact of HYPREP has not been felt by the people.”
“Besides, we quarrel with the method of disposing collected contaminated soil in polythene bags and dumping same at close vicinity where it was removed in same Bodo. This method in our opinion is evil practice of disposing contaminated soil.
“It calls for the questioning of the seriousness and integrity of the process at it does not promote environmentally sound practice. We had thought that the first thing in this direction would have been the establishment of the Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Centre or the On-Site Mini Treatment Centre, which are not provided yet should have been in place as recommended by the (UNEP) report.
“According to the UNEP, there are varying degrees of contamination across Ogoni land, hence one type of technique cannot be used in the cleaning up of the contaminants. Therefore subscribing to the methods used by Shell at Bodo is technically superfluous and unacceptable.”
The CSOs also berated the federal government for its lethargic show in providing the needed funds to fasten the cleanup process, a situation Kigbara described as dangerous.
“The coalitions observed that the federal government has not provided and released sufficient funds to HYPREP for effective implementation of the activities, even though HYPREP has left members of the public in doubt about financial accountability as the expenditure of the very initial funds it got from the federal government is still shrouded in doubts.
“Against this background, we utterly condemn the superfluous delay in the release of sufficient funds for the quick implementation of the cleanup activities even as a huge number of Ogonis are beginning to perceive the actions of these agencies and the Ministry of Environment as some deception and clever trick,” the statement said.