From Tony John, Port Harcourt
The Gbo Kabaari Ogoni (Forum of Ogoni Elders and Leaders of Thought) has raised the alarmed over the award of non-transparent contracts, which are of doubtful credibility going on in the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP).
The forum in a statement signed by the acting Chairman, John Uebari and Secretary, Prof. Alubabari Nbete, said it had severally harped on the shortlisting and award of remediation contracts to unqualified companies.
Gbo Kabaari Ogoni lamented that such 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 Initiative through what appears to be a contract bazaar.
The group said it has learnt that clean-up contracts had been earmarked for award to predetermined contractors with whom agreements had been 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 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 that 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.”
It, however, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene and prevail on HYPREP to carry out proper management of funds meant for the agency.