Fears, Uncertainty Trail Ogoni Clean-up

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As Stakeholders’ Raise Fresh Concerns
…Mounts Pressure on FG to Hasten Contract Award, Procurement Processes

By Jennifer Y Omiloli

Ahead of commencement of the remediation programme in the Niger Delta region, fresh worries are already being raised by stakeholders which the Hydrocarbon Pollution and Restoration Project, HYREP may not have taken into consideration.

Part of such fears being raised by the stakeholders drawn from a coalition of civil society organisations and environmental experts is that the source of drinking water which is usually from wells are contaminated by benzene, a known carcinogen at levels over 900 times higher than the World Health Organisation guideline.

Beyond this, they claim that the region accounts for highest death statistics in Nigeria as no week passes by where burial occasions don’t take place, owing to the harmful effect of chemicals emitted into the environment through oil exploration activities.

They allege that the lack of independence of HYREP, an agency under the Federal Ministry of Environment may skew the contract awards processes in favour of people with political interest.
All these worries were voiced out on Thursday at the 2nd Annual National Summit on the Niger Delta Clean-up with the theme: “Environment, Wellness and The Community” held in Abuja.
They are also bothered about the slow contract bidding processes, a development they want the government to hasten.

The United Nations Environment Project (UNEP) report detailing the assessment and challenges of Ogoniland and other environs was submitted to the Nigerian government in 2011.
Recall that the Federal Government recently confirmed the availability of $180 USD to be deployed as mobilization fees for about 21 contractors who successfully scaled through the bidding processes.
He said the funds were rallied from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), and other joint venture companies and were being managed by the board of trustees of HYPREP. The Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Jubril had also confirmed that the first phase of the clean-up will begin soonest.

However, at the one-day summit, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) one of the CSO in attendance, argued that irrespective of the good intentions of government any clean-up exercise that does not take into consideration issues of human development, justice and equity in the region would end in futility.

According to the group, the Ogoni clean-up exercise should provide an opportunity to establish a basis for good environmental governance in the region.
Auwal Musa, Executive Director CISLAC said, “let me use this opportunity to commend the Federal Government and other joint venture partners for committing to this process after a period of lull and for setting up the governing framework. We call on the government to speed up the procurement process of selecting contractors and deploy them to engage the clean-up exercise”.

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