Two civil society groups, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and Health of Mother Health Foundation (HOMEF), have joined their voices to the growing calls for the reversal of the purported transfer of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) from the Federal Ministry of Environment to the Federal Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
Established under the Federal Ministry of Petroleum of Nigeria in 2012 following a recommendation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on the assessment of the Ogoni environment in 2011, the then Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) was moved five years later to the Federal Ministry of Environment, in cognisance of the fact that a polluter could not be saddled with the responsibility of cleaning and remediating the environment of Ogoniland. In 2016, government gazetted and renamed it Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP).
Several years later in 2022, the agency appears set to experience yet another movement which, however, may not be going down well with stakeholders.
Minister of Transportation, Muázu Jaji Sambo, is said to have announced in Abuja that HYPREP would be moved from the Environment ministry to the Niger Delta Affairs ministry because, according to him, HYPREP Is a purely Niger Delta affair and that transferring the agency to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs would quicken the pace of the clean-up.
But, in a statement issued on Wednesday, August 3, 2022, HOMEF rejected the planned movement of HYPREP, adding that the idea stemmed from the misconception that HYPREP is a solely Niger Delta affair.
“This is far from being accurate. We have hydrocarbon pollution in other areas of Nigeria outside the Niger Delta, including around Kaduna refinery, and at Atlas Cove, Badagry and other places in Lagos. It is also obvious that, with oil extraction activities in Lagos waters and Dangote’s refinery being built at Lekki, hydrocarbon pollution will soon become the norm in Lagos. That is not Niger Delta,” the group submitted, adding:
“Moreover, with plans to invest 30% of the profits of NNPC Ltd in prospecting for petroleum resources in frontier basins, the scope of pollution will expand. That will not be in the Niger Delta. Besides the fact that moving HYPREP to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs unnecessarily limits its scope, it also blindsides the essential backstopping agencies such as National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) seamlessly provide to the agency. If the move is allowed to stand, there will be an avoidable duplication of personnel as the new ministry grapples with the in-house expertise required for the extremely specialised assignments of the agency. If such a move is allowed to stand there is a real risk of further slowing down the clean-up of Ogoniland or completely scuttling the process.”
Nnimmo Bassey, Director of HOMEF, submitted: “We do not need the confusion and wastage that will be created by this planned move of HYPREP to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. Considering the ecological crisis in the Niger Delta and across Nigeria, we expect the Federal Government to order an urgent commencement of environmental audit of the nation and ensuring that all polluters – the oil companies, including NNPC Ltd – pay for the clean-up of the entire Niger Delta and other areas afflicted with hydrocarbon pollution.”
He described the planned move as “a calculated distraction at a time when international oil companies are making moves to divest from onshore oil fields with, undeclared but real, intention of avoiding responsibility for historical and current environmental damage.”
HOMEF also believes that such a move would overburden the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and that HYPREP may end up as another opaque agency like the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), to the detriment of the people and the environment.
MOSOP, on its part, called government to rescind the decision, adding that, if not reversed, “it would have adverse consequences on the ongoing Ogoni environmental remediation and restoration exercise in terms of operational progress and management”.
In a statement dated Tuesday, August 2, 2022, and endorsed by Chief Prince Nuvete Biira (President), Hon. Kammy Ngelale (Deputy President), Festus Legbara (Secretary-General), Stephen Nmane (Assistant Secretary-General), Emere Mba Chu (Financial Secretary) and Needam John Gbenenee (Treasurer), MOSOP declared: “The Ministry of Environment as of fact is critical to the success of the Ogoni ecological rejuvenation project, which, if successful, would inform replication in other impacted areas of the Niger Delta and the country at large.
“With the ministry’s acknowledged understanding of the dynamics of Ogoni and the existential conditions connecting the clean-up exercise, any transfer of HYPREP to an organ of government with doubtful capacity, will not be in the interest of the project and our people hence our irresistible resistance. Insofar as we are concerned, and as it is factual, the ministry has the resourcefulness including quality environmental governance structure and experience having been involved in ecosystem revival administration for decades. This has given it an edge over the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs in terms of experience, technical expertise and managerial competence.
“Interestingly, the committed efforts of the Minister of Environment. Barrister Mohammed Abdullahi and his team are driving restoration of the clean-up exercise to the path of efficiency and success. Besides, the popular programmes and projects lined up including but not limited to sustainable power supply and skill acquisition training for Ogoni youths, have rekindled the people’s exhilaration and confidence in the exercise.
“The mandate of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs (MNDA) entails implementation of government plans and frameworks for rapid socio-economic development of the Niger Delta region, which has little to do with environmental recovery and control. Hence, we are totally opposed to the transfer of HYPREP to MNDA. In fact, it was the same reason of incapacity in terms of the said experience, technical knowhow and managerial proficiency that prompted our protest in 2016 against the retention of HYPREP in the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources occasioning its transfer to the Federal Ministry of Environment.
However, MOSOP welcomes Mr. President’s directive to the Minister of Environment, Mohammed Abdullahi, to deliver on the Ogoni environmental restoration exercise with despatch. And likewise reorganise HYPREP and audit its account from inception. We would thus advice positive response to this policy statement. This has become imperative as similar mandate was given the immediate past Minister of Environment in 2020 following the abysmal performance of the agency in order to reposition the Ogoni ecological recovery programme. But it turned out albeit sadly, to be a reform implemented only in the media.
“Nonetheless, we encourage the minister to increase consultative engagements with the accredited representatives of the Ogoni people. This will boost communication and enhance update on developments relating to the HYPREP managed Ogoni clean-up exercise. And thus, block rumour mongering capable of generating disaffection between HYPREP and the Ogoni community.”