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How land disputes, other crisis delay Ogoni cleanup project, by HYPREP

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The Federal Government yesterday said it is committed to the cleanup of hydrocarbon-impacted communities in Ogoniland in spite of challenges being faced in the exercise.

Project Coordinator of the Hydrocarbon Pollution and Remediation Project (HYPREP), Dr. Marvin Dekil, disclosed this to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the sidelines of the 2020 Ogoni Day Celebration in Bori, Rivers State.

HYPREP, under the Federal Ministry of Environment, has the mandate to clean up decades-long oil spills in four Ogoni local government areas in Rivers State namely: Eleme, Gokana, Khana, and Tai.

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Dekil said in spite of government’s commitment to the project, the remediation exercise was being hampered by land disputes, leadership tussles, and communal clashes.

The land and chieftaincy tussles have been a major cause of delay in the implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report in most of the cleanup sites.

“This has to change for us to make progress by way of unfettered access to all contaminated sites. We equally appeal that HYPREP is spared land and chieftaincy disputes, as we do not have an interest in any land and chieftaincy stool,” he said.

He noted that the Federal Government was also worried about the fresh pollution of the affected Ogoni communities, blaming the development of activities of oil thieves in the area.

“So, another area that we expect stakeholders to assist us to deliver on our mandate is the issue of re-pollution. Our efforts to clean up Ogoniland will amount to nothing if after investing so many resources and time it is again re-polluted through activities of illegal bunkers and refiners.

“We urge the leadership of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) and communities to dissuade youths from these very poisonous activities that affect our health, environment, and economy,” he added.

Dekil, however, said in spite of the challenges, the remediation agency recorded several successes last year.

He listed the achievements to include the mobilisation of contractors to the 21 remediation sites, employment of 24 graduates from Ogoniland, creation of job opportunities and skills acquisition for youths.

Others are agreement on rehabilitation of the Rivers State Water facilities in Ogoniland and use of the state’s facilities to conduct health impact study in the area.

“In most of the sites, contractors are excavating and treating contaminated soil, while some have even completed the process of excavation and are backfilling treated soil.

“We assure that the year 2020 will see an increase in our activities as everything that is recommended in the UNEP is now an emergency for us,” he said.

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