The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has restated the resolve of civil society groups advancing the full implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Assessment Report on Ogoniland to work with the new leadership of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) to achieve the objective.
ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Chima Williams, stated this at a One-day National Roundtable on the HYPREP organised by the Peoples Advancement Centre (PAC) on Monday, July 17, 2023, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. The convening had in attendance over 20 civil society, as well as women-led and grassroots groups from across the country in attendance.
Williams said that it was good news that the recently appointed Project Coordinator of HYPREP, Professor Nenibari Zabbey, is an activist who had campaigned for the restoration of the Ogoni environment as recommended by the UNEP and had equally published papers on how the cleanup exercise would succeed.
The ERA/FoEN boss noted however that even with Professor Zabbey on the saddle, civil society would not let up on their watchdog role to make the new helmsman succeed and the goals of the UNEP Assessment achieved.
HYPREP Project Coordinator, Professor Nenibari Zabbey, in his intervention, pledged to work constructively with civil society to address the gaps in the operations of the agency. He announced that the gender disparity in the agency as reflected in only 5% women in the agency will be addressed to ensure parity with the menfolk.
Zabbey also announced that over 500 youths have been recruited and deployed as civil security supporting clean-up sites and facilities even as he added that mangrove restoration will be a priority of his administration to pave way for the livelihood challenges of the locals to be adequately addressed.
He explained that he is set to put in place a framework for inclusion, community engagement and standard operating procedures within the shortest possible time to ensure that the gaps observed by Ogoni people and civil society are addressed headlong.
Earlier in his welcome remarks, PAC Convener, Celestine Akpobari, explained that HYPREP as an agency of government was not set up for the love of the impacted people of Ogoniland, but because of civil society pressure exposing the decades long injustices meted on the Ogoni people.
Akpobari said the convening is targeted at getting the new leadership of HYPREP to stay on course in implementing the UNEP assessment even as he noted that HYPREP had deviated from its original mandate in some cases.
Some critical recommendations from the convening are the need for Federal Government to go back and adhere to the original mandate that the HYPREP was conceived to achieve, the need for a civil society liaison desk within HYPREP, the immediate need for HYPREP to carry out chemical, air and health assessments as recommended by the UNEP Assessment Report in Ogoniland, and the need for the agency to address current observed staff shortages in key areas such as monitoring and operations for it to be able to deliver on its mandate, among others.