From TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
Members of oil bearing and impacted communities in Ogoni have again called on the respective companies and government authorities concerned to remove all unused and faulty exploration and production facilities that still litter the communities.
Representatives of the Ogoni communities, who were part of the participants in a stakeholders’ capacity building programme jointly organized by Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre, and Kallop Humanitarian and Environmental Centre, and supported by a South African-based organisation, IARAN, held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, also expressed high expectations while sharing experiences on the ongoing clean-up exercise by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP).
The Ogoni communities stated that the unabated cases of oil spills and air pollution in the area would have been averted if the used pipes and other abandoned facilities were decommissioned based on standard procedure and international best practice.
They added that there were still visible contamination and contaminable materials in the area and at the various sites claimed to have been cleaned by the HYPREP contractors.
The communities also expressed dissatisfaction over some actions of the contractors engaged in the clean-up process and the delay in the provision of the emergency measures by HYPREP.
In his presentation, Head, Environment and Conservation Programme at the Center for Human Rights and Development, Sam Kabari, explained basic concepts in the clean-up process and gave expository background on the Niger Delta environment pollution and the commencement of the Ogoni clean-up project, vis-à-vis, the formation of HYPREP.
He said Niger Delta is the hub of oil exploration and production in Nigeria while Ogoniland is a classic example of a degraded environment, adding that community agitations and government response led to the Ogoni clean-up project.
On the journey so far, the resource person explained the two main decision phases, which included Risk Assessment and Risk Management further said, so far, HYPREP has awarded 21 less contaminated sites to contractors in the first phase of the clean-up in 2019, while in 2020, second batch of 36 lots were awarded.
Sam disclosed that the opening of tender for complicated contaminated sites started in August, 2021, and that the women livelihood programmes conducted by HYPREP was not comprehensive to accommodate the needs and the larger population of the Ogoni women.
According to him, the HYPREP livelihood programme has added more financial burden on the Ogoni women, as there was no provision of funds as starter packs for the local women.
He said the water project was inaugurated in March, 2021, and that on August 17, 2021, the Health Outreach was also commissioned by the Minister for Environment.
“Certification is key in the remediation process, where soil samples are collected and analyzed for decision-making. The decision is made whether or not the contractor has completed the remediation of the sites.
“The certification process is a multi-stakeholder process involving regulatory agencies, like NOSDRA, Ministry of Environment and civil society organisations. It should not be a one off event, but a continuous process.”
Earlier, Executive Director of Kebetkache, Emem Okon and Executive Director of Kallop Humanitarian Centre, Anthony Aalo, stated that the forum was a product of series of consultation and engagements with key stakeholders and community members concerns on current situation of the clean-up process.
They explained the need to build capacity of the various stakeholders, particularly, members of the impacted communities to better understand the process and to engage properly.
They added that when this is achieved, the remediation value chain would benefit the community in diverse ways.
Other participants included civil society organisations, media and the academia.