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Elders seek urgent review of Ogoni cleanup

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The Gbo Kabaari Ogoni has urged Federal Government to urgently review the cleanup in the oil-rich area.

The council of elders regretted that since the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report revealed over 10 years ago that the people were consuming contaminated water, the government had not deemed fit to provide the indigenes with a safer variant of the resource, thereby “deliberately undermining the health and wellbeing of Ogoni people.”

The group’s chairman and secretary, Dr Benetti Birabi and Desmond Nbete told journalists yesterday in Port Harcourt that the provision of potable water was one of the emergency measures recommended in the document.

“The continued refusal to implement this all-important recommendation is, therefore, a serious threat to the corporate existence and sustainability of Ogoni people, who as Nigerians, are protected by the Nigerian constitution,” they stated.

The elders accused the supervising agency, the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) of “engaging in propaganda to cover up its failures at the expense of the health and lives of the hapless people of Ogoni.”

They argued that even UNEP, whose mandate it was to actively monitor and ensure compliance with international best practice, had also allegedly ventilated the “abysmal failure HYPREP so far because it was not designed nor structured to implement a project as complex as the Ogoniland cleanup.”

Consequently, the council called for the “comprehensive overhaul and restructuring of the project across all levels of the current nested structure.”

According to them, “HYPREP as presently structured, cannot function efficiently to deliver on an important and colossal project such as this.”

They continued: “The UNEP report, which necessitated the establishment of HYPREP, highlighted the raging environmental emergency in Ogoniland. HYPREP, as currently structured, is heavily laden with unnecessary bureaucracies. The two layers of governance – the Governing Council and the Board of Trustees as well as the complicated ministerial bureaucracies and their overarching and competing influence – all struggle for the attention and control of an agency that ought to be focused on implementing the scientific and socio-economic recommendations of the UNEP report.”

They pointed out that this “complex governance structure was also largely composed of political appointees with indefinite tenures of appointment, as well as representatives of the oil companies that polluted Ogoniland, in the first instance.”

The elders further claimed: “With the majority of members being direct and indirect representatives of the complicit JV (joint venture) structure that led to the pollution, the executive decisions for the cleanup can easily be influenced by these interests.”


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