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Ogoni clean-up: ERA tells govt to restructure HYPREP

Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Dr Godwin Uyi Ojo, has called on the Federal Government to urgently restructure the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), saying that the organisation has not been living up to expectations.

Ogoniland cleanup
Reps Environment Committee members inspecting Ogoniland remediation sites in Rivers State

At a media briefing on the 9th year of Ogoni Environmental Assessment Report Implementation, held in Benin City, Edo State, on Wednesday, August 5, 2020, Ojo said the call was informed by the fact that “there is disquiet all over Ogoni and palpable discontent across the land”.

His words: “A wall of resistance is rising against the failing of HYPREP daily. Hence we call on the federal government to urgently restructure HYPREP because at the rate it is going, it will take them more than 100 years to complete the more complex polluted sites in Ogoni which they have not even started to address.”

According to Ojo, there has been no livelihood improvement since the clean-up commenced.

Referring to the submission to Nigeria by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on August 4, 2011, detailing findings, conclusions, and recommendations on the environmental assessment of Ogoniland, he said:

“It has been nine years of motion without movement, nine years of unfulfilled promises, nine years of high-level manipulations by Shell and the Nigerian state as well as nine years of opaqueness and unaccountable operations by HYPREP. It has been nine years cluttered with a litany of failures and continuous discontent throughout Ogoni.”

In a presentation titled: “A Litany of Failures and a Season of Discontent”, the ERA/FoEN head disclosed further:

ERA/FoEN’s conclusion is based on detailed and continuous investigative assessment of the Ogoni cleanup process implementation, since the report was first submitted to the Nigerian state in 2011. ERA/FoEN has published yearly reports entitled “No Progress” report on different aspects of the cleanup process and has also published success indicators and Key performance indicators for use by communities, CSOs, contractors and even HYPREP itself to measure progress.

On June 18, 2020 ERA/FoEN in conjunction with Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth Europe and MilieuDefensie of the Netherlands jointly published the “NO CLEAN-UP, NO JUSTICE REPORT” a detailed investigative assessment of the status of the Ogoni clean-up process. Some 17 delineated cleanup lots were visited by researchers across the four local government areas of Eleme, Tai, Gokana and Khana local government areas, respectively. It was also based on detailed performance assessment analysis of HYPREP’s operations produced by UNEP in 2019.

After the release of our report showing the faltering cleanup process, the honorable minister of environment and HYPREP announced that the cleanup process was 70% complete and that the remaining work will be completed in a few months. It will be recalled that the initial 21 less complex sites were handed over to contractors in January 2019 and the cleanup was to last for 6 months.

It is needful to reiterate our conclusions and recommendations from the No CLEAN-UP, NO JUSTICE report.

  • HYPREP is not designed nor structured to implement a project as complex and sizeable as the Ogoni cleanup and therefore needs restructuring to position it for a more effective clean up.
  • HYPREP’s procurement process is significantly flawed. Its current rate of fund disbursement will mean it will need 100 years to effectively utilise a budget that was to last an initial 5 years. HYPREP’s processes lacked transparency and were not open to public scrutiny.
  • Work had stopped at 11 of the 17 cleanup sites researchers visited. Many of these sites stopped work in late 2019. Two sites had not even commenced work at the time of our visits except for the information board displayed outside their area of operation.
  • There is inherent conflict of interest with the open and significant role and influence exercised by Shell Petroleum Development Corporation in charting the cleanup direction and speed. Shell is implicated in majority of the spills that had devastated Ogoniland but it has managed to entrench itself in all the oversight bodies such as the governing council and the board of trustees. It is similarly fully entrenched in the day to day operations of HYPREP project coordination office with its former staff manning key positions in HYPREP.
  • HYPREP is bogged down by Nigerian government bureaucracy and Shell bureaucratic bottlenecks that has seen the program unable to make progress to open the bid process for the more complex sites and there appears to be no disclosed strategy on how to move forward with this aspect of the project.
  • HYPREP has failed and neglected to implement the UNEP recommended emergency measures taking direct aim at further disempowering women in Ogoni who are the care givers in our communities.
  • Based on ERA/FoEN developed Key Performance Indicators, the environment has not been remediated and there are no beneficiaries of any livelihood improvement of the Ogonis who cry out for justice on a daily basis.

Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria therefore called for:

  • The immediate implementation of all emergency measures recommended by UNEP especially the provision of portable water, the conduct of a health audit and setting up of a health register in impacted communities,
  • The implementation of UNEP recommendations on evolving ways to halt artisanal oil refining and the re-pollution of the environment from this activity,
  • The enforcement of the polluter pays principle and the removal of Shell from all oversight bodies as well as the day to day management of the cleanup process,
  • The establishment of Clean Up and Remediation fund of $100 billion for the cleanup of the entire Niger Delta region and the compensation of communities and individuals directly affected by over 50 years of oil extraction,
  • The issuing of strong legislations by governments in the UK and the Netherlands mandating companies to respect human rights and apply the same environmental standards across global operations.
  • The certification of NOSDRA must be sought before HYPREP gives the go ahead for excavation of trenches to be back filled. As it is right now none of the sites that have been given permission to back fill their excavated trenches have had NOSDRA certification that they had cleaned the soil to the level in the contract they signed with HYPREP.
  • An independent verification mechanism be set up to evaluate whether the remediation work by contractors meet the parameters set out in the contractual agreement with HYPREP. This has become imperative considering the claims that laboratories where samples are analysed are either owned by contractors engaged in the cleanup and remediation process or top management of HYPREP.
  • Setting up of a multi-stakeholder process to jointly define and determine success indicators and Key performance indicators for the Ogoni cleanup process.
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