The clean-up of Ogoni has taken longer than necessary despite the available resources and manpower made available. In 2012, the Nigerian government established the Hydrocarbons Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) to help with the clean-up of Ogoni land and impacted communities. The name, described as “anachronistic” by activists, was changed to Hydrocarbons Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) in 2016 when the cleanup was flagged off.
Project Coordinators for the job have come and gone, and yet a new one has been appointed. While congratulating the newly appointed of HYPREP coordinator, Professor Nenibarini Zabbey, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) noted that he must resolve to do things differently. Transparency, focus and inclusion of all relevant stakeholders must be key in the operations. HOMEF also calls for regular consultations in which projected milestones are shared and achieved targets are presented.
The Director of HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey, noted that with Zabbey’s pedigree as an academician and activist, the expectations of stakeholders are high, and failure is not an option. He adds that things must be done differently, and the complex pollution sites must be tackled resolutely.
“We applaud the appointment of Prof. Nenibari Zabbey. Who has deep knowledge of the Ogoni environment and has done important research in the area and in the wider Niger Delta region. This appointment coming 12 years after the UNEP report should signify a turning point in the sluggish manner by which the clean-up has been approached.”
Bassey further explains that time is of essence as the situation gets worse with every passing day. “While we congratulate Prof. Zabbey on this appointment, we equally take the opportunity to register some key and urgent demands and hope that he uses his office to advocate for a comprehensive health and environmental audit of Ogoni land, the entire Niger Delta and wherever there has been negative impacts of hydrocarbons exploration and exploitation.”
HOMEF urges the Project Coordinator to make accountable and transparency key planks of his tenure. Professor Zabbey who is a Professor of Biomonitoring and Restoration Ecology, at the Department of Fisheries, University of Port Harcourt, also coordinates the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) – a respected civil society organisation.
HOMEF calls on the Federal Government of Nigeria, the oil and gas industry to begin a comprehensive cleanup of the Niger Delta region and take coordinated action to end to all forms of pollution including through gas flaring.