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Why $1b cleanup funds may not benefit Ogoni, by Magnus Abe

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Former representative Rivers South East Senatorial District, Magnus Abe, has expressed concern that the $1 billion Ogoni Trust Fund may fall victim of the Nigerian factor and ultimately not benefit the Ogoni people.

He said he has a feeling that the money would be spent in the name of Ogoni with no lasting impact on the lives of the people.

He argued that it would be appropriated by Ogoni people if Hydrocarbon Pollution and Remediation Project (HYPREP) under the Project Coordinator, Dr. Marvin Dekil, could give more information on how the Ogoni cleanup would benefit the communities.

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Abe said concerns that the cleanup might not benefit the people was the primary reason stakeholders came up with the idea of converting the Centre of Excellence to a university that becomes a lasting legacy from the Trust Fund that would endure the passage of time.

He added that HYPREP’s claim that each contract provides a minimum of 35 local job opportunities raises more questions than answers, wondering the nature of those jobs, if they were permanent placements, level of employees and how long they would last.

“While we must thank HYPREP for the opportunities, I think the most important question for the Ogoni people should be who are the contractors and what number of these contractors are local? If the contracts require skills that are not locally available, what deliberate policy is HYPREP adopting to grow local participation and expand lasting opportunities for the Ogoni people and businesses in the land? He asked.

Abe noted that it was unacceptable for HYPREP to superintendent the disbursement of $1 billion named Ogoni Trust Fund and it would not matter if Ogoni people benefit from it, as long as there was remediation of impacted sites, because that was not the purpose of HYPREP.

“I am genuinely worried by that because it means that we are prepared to accept the unacceptable. Because of the unique history of Ogoni as the first oil producing and polluted community to benefit from this once in a life time opportunity in the Niger Delta, there must be lasting impact for the people,” he said.

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He commended President Muhammadu Buhari for going over and beyond the call of duty to make HYPREP real and ensure that it was funded, adding that Ogoni input and participation in the fund was respected.

According to him, if Ogoni stakeholders and the HYPREP coordinator fail to serve people the best with this opportunity, they would have no one to blame but themselves.

“We must also remember that poverty and insecurity are the underlying foundation behind the continued pollution of Ogoni land. In trying to cleanup the area without addressing the critical issues, HYPREP will merely be wasting the funds, because if illegal bunkering activities continue in the area during or after the exercise, we will go back to square one.

“That is, we will be stuck in a polluted environment full of poverty and human suffering. We must all be aware that if we end up in the same spot after spending $1 billion, history will be not be kind to us,” he stressed.

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