From TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) has frowned at the conversion of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) to political patronage by federal government.
MOSOP made the allegation as one of the issues contained in a communique released by its apex decision-making organ, the Central Committee (also known as Steering Committee), signed by the President, Prince Birra, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, yesterday.
The pan-Ogoni group described the action as fraudulent and detrimental to the clean up of oil polluted Ogoni environment.
It commended concerned Ogoni organisations and other interested parties for the peaceful and non-violent approaches adopted in articulating their grievances, as well as pursuing resolution of the complaints against obvious upsetting failings of HYPREP.
Birra stated: “The Steering Committee condemned in strong terms seeming conversion of the agency to a mere patronage dispensing board, where politicians, high profile government functionaries, national parliamentarians and their cronies as well as HYPREP officials, their relatives and friends are fraudulently serviced to the detriment of the clean-up project.
“While not exonerating the present leadership of HYPREP, it noted with dismay that past, especially the pioneer managers of the special purpose vehicle callously and brazenly laid the defective foundation, oversaw and left behind avoidable inadequacies inherited by the current leadership, which attempts at remedy have been thorny.”
The meeting, however, counselled the organisations and leaders to work as a team in the efforts at repositioning HYPREP to the path of sanity, efficiency and progress for the common good of all stakeholders.
It warned the advocates to beware of divisive infiltrators pretending as messiahs, but sponsoring saboteurs to break and destroy the good conscience campaign.
The assembly advised the management of HYPREP to listen to these voices of reason and open its doors to thorough and helpful dialogue.
Also, it urged the controlling leadership of the agency including the supervising Federal Ministry of Environment, to resist temptations or lures against democratizing the execution and management of the clean-up project to assure and effect inclusivity, transparency and accountability as essential pillars of confidence building and trust.
MOSOP applauded the social and environmental good governance crusaders for allowing room for productive discussions aimed at resolving the grievances.
The Central Committee averred that the existential circumstances of the project has occasioned the importance Ogoni attaches to the exercise.
It, however, regretted that for over six years of the existence of HYPREP, it has unabatedly suffered the suffocating Nigerian factor oiled by unhealthy politicization and corrupt pursuits, which has overwhelmed the essence of its establishment.
It said: “Hence, it has been unable to provide the needed environmental and social succour to the people, especially the emergency actions or meet its own targets to this day.
“We are aware of situations where HYPREP officials that fought against the trend had been labelled rebellious and denied necessary approvals just to squeeze them to submission. It, thus, warned all those involved to stop forthwith.”
MOSOP also insisted that neither HYPREP nor the Federal Government that is the highest beneficiary of the joint venture arrangements nor the oil industry represented by Shell is doing Ogoni any favour.
It contended that the undeserving degrading and debilitating Ogoni circumstances were inflicted on the community by government and the oil industry in an infamous slick alliance. The meeting maintained that international law relating to remedy provides that “if you damage, you must repair”.
“Hence, government and the oil industry through HYPREP are remedying albeit appallingly decades of ruination of the Ogoni environment occasioned by massive oil spills. It thus urged the polluters (government and Shell) to remove all obstacles impeding speedy progress of the Ogoni ecological recovery exercise.”
MOSOP also expressed concern at the disappointing approach of the federal government to issues concerning Ogoni, especially the deplorable state of the Ogoni section of the East/West road.
The committee recalled that in October, 2021, the central administration committed to completing that axis of the infrastructure (Section 4: Onne-Eleme/Port Harcourt junction) under the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF).
It regretted that one year thereafter, nothing has been done to construct that part of the road and recalled that in September, 2022, Abuja committed to completing the said section and directed the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) to commit funds for its completion under the Tax Credit Scheme. But, nothing has happened to date.
It advised the federal government to immediately commence work on the terrible section of the infrastructure, as the patience of the Ogoni was running out.