From Tony John, Port Harcourt
The Ogoni Development Drive (ODD), a civil society group, has called on the Federal Government to immediately change the head of corporate communications of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), for a lack of adequate communication flow between the agency and the people of Ogoni.
The ODD said in the last five years, the current head of communication of HYPREP, Isa Wassa, has created a huge gap between the Ogoni and the activities of the interventionist agency, thereby causing speculations that the cleanup exercise in Ogoni has been too slow.
The convener of the group, Solomon Lenu, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, said that unless the Head of Communication and Community Engagement of HYPREP was redeployed, it would appear to the Ogoni people that the agency’s activities are shrouded in secrecy.
Lenu expressed disgust over a statement credited to Mr Wasa that ‘Shell, with an outstanding character, cannot be accused of complicity in the oil spill in Ogoniland.’
Lenu said the statement was borne out of lack of understanding of ‘the social dynamics of Ogoniland, history of the oil business in Ogoniland and the environmental devastation caused by Shell in Ogoniland.’
Lenu alleged that ‘for about 30 years of Shell’s operations in Ogoniland, about $30 billion has been stolen from Ogoniland without accountability and nothing to show for it. Our economy is strangulated and our people politically marginalized to deny us the opportunity to sit at the sharing table.
‘Shell has lost and is still losing virtually all the court cases of pollution instituted against them by Niger Deltans in both national and international courts of competent jurisdiction.’
He argued that until Wasa was redeployed to where he came from, his continuous presence will frustrate the good intentions of the federal government and by extension, the good works started by President Muhammadu Buhari in remediating the Ogoni polluted environment.
On the qualities of the next Project Coordinator of HYPREP, Lenu said that the agency needed ‘someone who has knowledge of the social dynamics of the Ogoni people, someone who knows and understands the language of the Ogonis and what we’ve been through over the years.’
He said that in appointing a new project coordinator for the agency, the world and the Ogoni people, in particular, would want to see somebody who has the creativity and innovation for a sustainable solution to Ogoni environmental problem, ‘not those who will compound the existing problems.’
The activist said that for about five years on the job, rather than bridging the communication gap, the communication model has created a very large vacuum and a catastrophic gap among stakeholders.
‘Even when he got negative feedback from Ogoni communities all these years, his communication model has not changed; yet, millions of naira are being wasted annually through his office for a wrong reason,’ he said.
He called on patriotic Ogoni people, especially those who represent the Ogoni Community on HYPREP Governing Council and Board of Trustees, to speak up against the lack of adequate communication network between the Ogoni and the agency.
‘We also call on the Hon. Minister of State for Environment, to, as a matter of urgency, redeploy Isa whose tenure in HYPREP has expired if she wants to bridge the communication gap among stakeholders in HYPREP which virtually all Civil Society Organizations have unanimously rated as very poor at different fora,’ he stated.
Wasa, meanwhile, could not be reached to react to the story at the time of reporting.