Litigations, insecurity, infighting threats to Ogoni cleanup, says HYPREP
The Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) has lamented that litigations against its activities, insecurity and infightings in Ogoni may threaten execution of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report.
Specifically, HYPREP identified youth restiveness and community leadership tussles, as major threats to the Ogoni cleanup process. Its Head of Legal Services, Mrs. Grace Ekanem, disclosed at a workshop organized by the agency in Port Harcourt for elected political officers of Ogoni extraction, that some Ogoni indigenes have filed 10 different lawsuits against HYPREP.
Ekanem explained that some of the matters for which the plaintiffs have obtained an injunction against HYPREP were directly connected to areas designated for the cleanup, insisting that the litigations were affecting the environmental remediation process.
“Most of the cases have injunctions, which are delaying the work. The cases make us spend money we supposed to use for remediation on settling litigations. We beg the people of Ogoni people to explore conflict resolution mechanisms instead of litigations.
“We want elected representatives of Ogoni extraction to talk to their people to restrain from litigations, which is more time and money consuming. Most of the litigations have already caused HYPREP so much money. “They should remember that they are critical stakeholders who are very close to their people and as such, we want them to use alternative dispute resolution instead of litigations,” Ekanem said.
She observed that some stakeholders in Ogoni still assumed that HYPREP was in Ogoni to take over their ancestral lands and meddle in their communal chieftaincy issues, stressing that contrary to that erroneous belief, HYPREP’s sole mandate remains to clean up contaminated sites in Ogoni and by extension, the rest of the Niger Delta.
On his part, Lt. Col. Olayinka Coker, who heads a special security unit set up by the National Security Adviser (NSA’s) Officer for the Ogoni cleanup process, stated that since September 2018, security agencies have recorded security incidents in Ogoniland involving five kidnap cases and 68 deaths arising from cult clashes among rival cult groups.
Coker, who was represented by Lt Commander, Godswill Okutue, said cult groups have killed at least five security personnel and took away their weapons. He explained that Khana Council accounted for most of the cult-related killings, closely followed by Gokana, insisting that although most of the deaths recorded across Ogoniland were not related to HYPREP operations, a secure environment was necessary for contractors to operate in the cleanup process. HYPREP project coordinator, Dr. Marvin Dekil, said interactions with chairmen of Khana, Gokana, Eleme and Tai councils, as well as members of the Rivers State House of Assembly of Ogoni extraction was in recognition of their roles as policymakers in the development of their communities.
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