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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Ogoniland cleanup: ERA clamours change in HYPREP hierarchy

The Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has called for the immediate removal of Prof. Philip Shekwolo as the Acting Project Coordinator of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP).

Ogoniland cleanup
Remediation ongoing at a site in Deebon/Mogho, Gokana, River State

The call for the sacking of Prof. Shekwolo is contained in the recommendations made in the ERA/FoEN comprehensive report titled, “No clean up, no justice: a decade of failure?”

ERA/FoEN claimed in the report that Prof. Shekwolo, being a senior member of Shell, should have no place in the HYPREP which is undertaking the cleanup of Ogoniland pollution, said to be caused by Shell.

ERA/FoEN is describing his inclusion in HYPREP as an intolerable situation, noting “we cannot solve the devastation of the Ogoni environment utilising the same persons who exacerbated the situation in the first place”

ERA/FoEN disclosed that Prof. Shekwolo was the Head of the Shell team charged with the cleanup and remediation programme for over 15 years, saying: “Many of the sites being cleaned today had supposedly been cleaned under the supervision of Prof. Shekwolo.”

Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, says the implications of Prof. Shekwolo taking over as Acting Project Coordinator of HYPREP is an indication that Shell is in control of the Ogoni cleanup and the possibilities are there that he will run the cleanup in the same manner it has always carried out the cleanup exercise in the Niger Delta region.

Therefore, ERA/FoEN calls for the immediate sack of Prof. Shekwolo from HYPREP as well as Shell from the Governing Council, Board of Trustees and the project coordinating office.

Similarly, the environment organization frowned on the inclusion of politicians in the recently reconstituted Governing Council and the Board of Trustees of HYPREP.

According to the organisation, “the recently reconstituted Governing Council and the Board of Trustees of HYPREP is peopled by politicians expressing a sense of political patronage. The cleanup process should not be used as an opportunity to provide job for the boys or party loyalists.”

“ERA/FoEN calls on the Nigerian state to keep politicians far away from the cleanup process and allow the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other capable individuals to manage the Ogoni cleanup process to ensure it does not fail.”

The group further questioned the delay over the release of at least $200 million yearly for initial five years period which should have amounted to $1 billion by 2021.

“Has the money been fully paid, and what was the funds used for?” ERA queried.

ERA/FoEN further stated in its six-point recommendations in the policy brief report that the cleanup of Ogoniland is a multi-disciplinary scientific process geared towards restoring the devastated Ogoni environment and setting the template for the cleanup of the entire Niger Delta region after over six decades of commercial oil production and making of hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue.

“This cleanup, if well managed, could rightly be described as a turning point in the history of the people of Ogoni and the entire Niger Delta region. It could also provide the yardstick to determine whether the over 31 million people who call this region home will live or die.”

UNEP 10 years ago published a report which is the first comprehensive and publicly available study on the impact of oil pollution in the Niger Delta. The report scientifically validated the age long claim by Ogoni people and civil society organisations that Shell and the Nigerian State were waging a genocidal environmental war against its lands, rivers, streams, culture and people.

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