We Can’t Hurry And Get Ogoni Cleanup Wrong – HYPREP Coordinator

HYPREP Coordinator, Mr Marvin Dekil

On June 2, 2016, the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta Region were thrown into wild jubilation as the Federal Government flagged off the Ogoni cleanup. Over a year after, the desperate reality of the Ogoni land still cries out for intervention.

What happened to the Federal Government’s planned implementation of the $1billion UNEP Report? How much has the Federal Government committed so far to the project? When is the actual cleanup of the Ogoni taking off?

The Coordinator, Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), Mr Marvin Dekil, answers these questions and more in this interview with Gbenga Ashiru for Channels Television’s Question Time.

Watch the interview here or read on for excerpts.

When exactly is the Ogoni cleanup taking off?

There are structures in place to ensure that the project takes off smoothly. The project has started already. The procedures and the process to get the project started is to put together the building blocks. The governing structure of the institution is there to ensure that the project is immune from political manipulation which is part of the reasons why the previous attempts were not successful. So, the commitment was to ensure that whatever process is put in place endures time and political transition and that has been achieved.

You complain about the intrusion of political elements in the hydrocarbon remediation project. But can you really dissociate the politics away from this cleanup project? How do you intend to kick off this project, without the intrusion of the political elements?

In the governing council, we have the community represented. In the governing council, we also have the civil societies. All of these are the stakeholders in the project. This is done to make sure that all stakeholders are considered and adequately represented in decision making for the project. Talking about the technical aspect of the project and when exactly it is going to take off, it has started. The project coordination office started in March and actually commenced (work) in April, this year.

So, within April and now, in August, so much has been done. We have gone to the communities and sensitised the people across the four local government areas. We have been to specific communities and engaged the leaders including women leaders and youths. We have already opened demonstration sites across these four local government areas. If you go to Tai Local Government, we are opening a demonstration site with two companies there to demonstrate the best technology that they have for the project. This was only done after extensive sensitisation in these communities.

Would you sweep under the carpet the fact that the Ijaw Youth Congress are complaining that they are not being carried along in this project that affects their livelihood?

HYPREP has a national mandate. We are starting in Ogoni. So the particular report we are implementing is that of the Ogoni people. When we get to other areas, we will engage them as well. But right now, we are starting with the Ogoni people – the Ogoni youths and its stakeholders. Being carried along depends on what the people mean by being carried along. A couple of days ago, the Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Usman Jubril, was in our office in Port Harcourt, where he met with a section of youths involved in artisan refinery. The youths renounced their activities and showed interest in HYPREP projects. They promised to stop all activities that will cause further pollution to the environment. This is a programme that we are engaging with the youth to ensure that they do not constitute a problem to the project by providing an alternative source of livelihood.

In a nutshell, does that suggest that the actual cleanup is yet to commence?

What you call the actual cleanup is a process. It is not an activity that is isolated. Cleanup starts with a process and that process has started. This involves going to the sites, evaluating the state of these sites and then designing proper plans that will be used for the execution. The cleanup, which you are calling the actual cleanup, is the last stage.

You are talking of still spending time on the impact assessment but one will presume that the impact assessment was one of the basis for the UNEP report…
Technically, the assessments are of different types. There is the initial assessment you do first to find out if there is a contamination. There is another that unravels the quantum of the contamination on the environment? After this, a method is designed for removing that. What UNEP did was answer the first question – is this place contaminated? How much contamination is in the environment? This is another thing we have to do.

Are you suggesting, in essence, that UNEP report is not a comprehensive draft document for the Ogoni Kingdom?

What UNEP did was a $10million assessment project for Ogoniland, which is different from the implementation. The implementation when estimated will involve more funds, so $1billion is not sufficient because the work that will be done is far more than $1billion and that is the phase we are talking about now. That phase is a more detailed and technical activity than the first one that was done. This is the one that requires all the planning that we are putting in place right now. So, the government’s commitment to doing this is unwavering.
In the first 100 days as project coordinator, we opened demonstration sites which are still existing in all the comminutes mentioned earlier. They include Kogana, Kadre, Por, Eleme, Ogale, Ebubu, Tai, and Khana. We have existing demonstration sites in all these locations.

Going by the UNEP report, this is a draft work document that is expected to take a period of five years and you have spent a period of 100 days in office. Considering the fact that the project was flagged off last year, it is expected for you to have completed 20% of the cleanup plan…

The report didn’t say five-year plan. It is continuous and it might run into several years. But the actual activity has commenced. You don’t start a process without communicating with the stakeholders, the people and the beneficiaries of the project. You don’t start a project without involving them and getting their inputs or doing the visibility work that is required.

How long is this planning and assessment going to take? You are resting on the crest that this assessment is technical, how do you communicate this project to the people?

This takes me back to the initial part of the project which is sensitisation. The local man just like you pointed out does not understand the technicality of the project, so it is our duty to engage them and make them understand that this project is not a project that you start in one day and the following day, you put bulldozers on the field, that is exactly what we have been doing.
The planning phases of this project will take like 18-months because there are things that need to be put in place. One of them is the Integrated contaminated soil management center which we are in the process of designing and building. This has to be in place before the project commences.

Will it suffice to say that there isn’t a comprehensive strategy for the Ogoni cleanup plan?

The Ogoni project is one that is going to redefine the way we do remediation in Nigeria. It is the template that we intend to roll across the country and so, we can’t get it wrong. We can’t be in a hurry to get it wrong. The question you are asking puts you in a situation where you want to rush but that is not the way to go. The way to go is to engage and let people understand that it is a technical project that requires time and expertise and we need to plan so don’t expect quick results because the procedure needs to be followed through.

You have complained in the media about the proliferation of illegal refineries and for us to have a meaningful Ogoni cleanup, how do you intend to stop illegal refining of crude?

Illegal refining is something that poses a serious threat to the project. After the cleanup, if people continue with such acts, it could further pollute the environment and this poses a threat. The main point is that people who engage in this kind of activities put their lives at risk because it has adverse effect on their health.

You have raised the issue of modular refineries as one of the solutions now but the inhabitants are complaining of being denied modular refinery license…

We are still at a stage where this is still being implemented and the planning is ongoing and we want to get input from all the people involved and that is the process where we are so how do you start criticizing what is still at the planning stage.

Wike Wants UN To Prevail On FG For Ogoni Cleanup

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has called on the United Nations to prevail on the Federal Government to implement the cleanup of Ogoni land, which was flagged off last year.

He made the call on Thursday when he received the U.N. Resident/ Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr Edward Kallon, at the Government House in Port Harcourt, the state capital.

The governor, who regretted that nothing had been done so far on the Ogoni cleanup, said large-scale environmental pollution in different parts of the state has led to environmental degradation, which negatively affects the sources of livelihood of the people.

He noted that the cleanup of Ogoni land should not be politicised, as it dwells directly on the development of the area.

This Cleanup Is Very Serious

“Yesterday in the Senate, somebody said that the Federal Government has not done anything as far as Ogoni cleanup is concerned; when we were saying it, they said we were playing politics. But now, it has dawned on them that nothing is being done. So, we urge you to intervene.

“Part of the problem we are having today is because of the lack of attention by the Federal Government when it has to do with Rivers State; we will provide you with a helicopter to see what we are talking about. Don’t only read it on papers, you will really pity us,” he said.

“The Federal Government has taken our oil and our environment has been degraded, nothing seems to be done. We urge you on your own part as the United Nations to impress on the Federal Government that this cleanup is very serious, let it not be a political issue. We should not play politics with the lives of the people,” he added.

Governor Wike also called on the United Nations to partner with the Rivers State government in the area of commercial agriculture.

He said because of the volatile nature of oil prices, investments in commercial agriculture would help create jobs for unemployed youths.

The governor appeal to the UN to provide a link for investors in commercial agriculture to come to the state, adding that his administration would provide incentives such as access to land and certificate of occupancy.

While soliciting for partnership in the area of environmental sanitation, he noted that his administration takes seriously, the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Wike informed the UN official that his administration also has improved security through the diligent implementation of the state amnesty programme.

He said the Rivers State government is working with relevant agencies to improve human rights and decongest the prisons.

In his response, Mr Kallon commended the governor for his effort towards infrastructural development in the state which he said has improved the living condition of the people.

“The United Nations will continue to mobilise support for the development of Rivers State,” he said, adding that “the UN will partner with the State Government in the area of agriculture as a tool of employment generation and empowerment”.

“Partnership will be developed with the Rivers State Government in the areas of Sustainable Development Goals, improvement of security, environmental sanitation, promotion of human rights and prisons decongestion,” Kallon said.

Amnesty, Environmental Groups Demand Immediate Cleanup Of Ogoniland

Ogoniland Oil Spill.One year after the Federal Government launched the cleanup of Ogoni, environmental groups and have called on the government to start the actual cleanup.

Environmental Rights Action, Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth Europe made the call on Friday in a joint statement.

The United Nations Environmental Programme had in 2011 called for the cleanup of Ogoniland which had suffered heavy oil pollution over the years after a study of the region.

Although the Federal Government held a ceremony to kick off the cleanup on June 2, 2016, the groups explained that the actual cleanup has not started.

“The government has made some administrative steps – putting in place the governing structures and appointing a coordinator to lead HYPREP, the implementation agency.

“But six years after publication of UNEP’s report, very little meaningful progress has been made to improve the situation, either by the Nigerian Government or by Shell, the main operating company in the area,” the statement read in part.

According to the groups, only one percent of the necessary funds are available as a group of stakeholders has reportedly transferred $10m of the initial $1billion budget required.

They also insisted that despite UNEP’s call, alternative sources of safe drinking water have not been provided for some of the communities with contaminated water wells.

“Six years after the UNEP report the communities of Ogoniland are still unacceptably waiting for action to clean up their land and water,” they said.

“A clear priority should be the immediate delivery of all emergency and priority measures outlined in the UNEP report.”

The groups also called on the government to investigate how its regulators certified four oil spill sites identified by UNEP as clean even though an investigation by Amnesty International found that “extensive visible pollution” still remained there.

Niger Delta Should Have Special Development Status – VP Osinbajo

VP Osinbajo Visits Gbaramatu Kingdom in Niger DeltaNigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, on Monday paid a visit to the Gbaramatu Kingdom in Delta State, recommending that the region should have a special development zone status.

Osinbajo was accompanied by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu and was received in Delta State by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.

In his address of welcome, entitled: ‘We must prepare for the future’, he advocated sustainable development for the Niger Delta region.

“An Area Of Poor Infrastructure”

“The Niger Delta that we see today, including this great kingdom, is an area of poor infrastructure – few schools, few hospitals, and severe pollution.

“The Niger Delta of today, is one of daily pipeline vandalism. In 2014 alone, there were over 3,700 incidents of pipeline vandalism.

“The Niger Delta of today is one where, aside from environmental degradation, between 1998 and 2015, over 20,000 persons have died from fire incidents, arising from breach of the pipeline.

“Everywhere you go, there are signboards of proposed projects, mostly uncompleted or abandoned altogether.

“Many of the initiatives to change the story, have not been able to make the big changes required,” the Vice President stated.

Citing several examples, dating back to the 60’s, down to the present day amnesty programmes, the Professor Osinbajo said many of such programmes have not been able to meet up with their objectives.

However, he charged the people, stressing that “the future, is not a future of environmental degradation, poor infrastructure, poor roads”and the likes.

Rather, it is a future of “progress and development” but according to him, “there is no time, as the future is already here”.

He then stated that in order to ensure that the future is not worse than today, three things must happen.

Also he believes that while the government plays its own part, the people have to combine efforts with it, in order to realise the desired development.

One of such things, he stressed, was that the people “must recognise the unique environmental and terrain challenges of the Niger Delta.

“We must recognise that the Niger Delta is a special development zone for this nation.

“It means that the Federal and State governments, the National Assembly representatives, along-side the NDDC and the civil society representatives, of the Niger Delta people must sit together, develop, plan and fund an arrangement for rapid development,” he stressed.

Also, in furtherance of development in the region, Professor Osinbajo revealed that the Pan Niger Delta Forum had come up with 16 dialogue issues that would be extremely helpful in ascertaining its key development priorities.

He stated that the region must also hold some of the international oil companies, to their agreement with host communities.

“We must promote indigenous participation in oil companies,” he added.

He also hinted that in the 2017 budget, provision had been made for the commencement of the Lagos-Calabar railway. (the coastal railway).

Mr Osinbajo is expected to also visit a number of oil communities across some Niger Delta states, where he is expected to address issues affecting the region and bring an end to militant attacks on Nigeria’s oil and gas facilities.

According to a statement from the Office of the Vice President, Professor Osinbajo would also be visiting Bayelsa and Rivers States at a later date to be announced.

Spokesperson for the Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, described the move as further demonstration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s readiness and determination to comprehensively address the Niger Delta situation.

Osinbajo Commences Interactions With Oil-Producing Communities

Osinbajo Commences Interactions With Oil-Producing CommunitiesVice President Yemi Osinbajo will be visiting a number of oil communities across some Niger Delta states starting on Monday, January 16, 2017, when he travels to Delta State.

According to a statement from the Office of the Vice President, Prof. Osinbajo would also be visiting Bayelsa and Rivers States at a later date to be announced soon.

Spokesperson for the Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, described the move as further demonstration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s readiness and determination to comprehensively address the Niger Delta situation.

He stated: “At these visits, the Vice President will lead high-level delegations of the Federal Government that will interact with leaders and representatives of the oil-producing communities in continuation of ongoing outreach efforts of the Buhari administration towards a long lasting and permanent resolution of the Niger Delta crisis.

“The Buhari presidency is fully committed to having an effective dialogue and positive engagement that will end the crisis in the oil-producing areas, and believes that these visits would further boost the confidence necessary for the attainment of peace and prosperity in the areas and the Nigerian nation in general.”