The joint National Assembly Committee on Ecology and Climate Changed on Wednesday visited some of the oil-polluted sites in Ogoniland where remediation work is ongoing with a call on the Hydro Carbon Pollution Remediation Project HYPREP and respective contractors to speed up the cleanup exercise.
This is as the Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria ERA/FoEN on whose instance the committee visited has recommended that 20% of the remediation funds be channelled into community development in the interest of the rural people most impacted by the pollution.
Senator Hassan Mohammed Gusau, Chairman Senate Committee on Ecology and Climate Change who led the team called on contractors be serious saying there was no justification for a job slated to last six months to remain uncompleted one and a half years after.
“Let the contractors be serious and also let them be up to date because they were given six months but most of them are one and half years old, they are also giving their own excuses but all that excuse are not tenable”. The Senate Committee Chair charged.
He expressed optimism that the job would attain faster speed with the visit of the joint committee saying; “I’m sure that with our presence and way and manner we motivated them, they will adjust. So I’m am just appealing to them to speed up the action. What is the need for us to keep money waiting?
The committee also urged HYPREP, the body coordinating the remediation process to be more transparent in its implementation of the remediation programme faulting it on lack of transparency and inadequate monitoring and evaluation plans for the project.
He hinted that the committee would be inviting HYPREP for a further meeting after looking into some of the document it has requested from the management and called stakeholders to be more patient with the body on its assignment to enable it to do proper work.
He said; “Actually to my own side, I observed that it is a technical work, it is not a work that somebody should rush on. If care is not taken money can be spent and it will not be of any benefits. So I advise that it shouldn’t be rushed. They should allow technical people to do their job so that we can proud after the job is completed”.
Speaking to journalists after the site visit Executive Director, Environmental Right Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria ARE/FoEN Dr Godwin Ojo explained that for the remediation process to make the desired impact, the lives of the people should be adequately considered.
He declared; “The whole essence of the cleanup is about people, the livelihood of the rural people, the fishing and farming have been grossly neglected. So we are in discussion with the expert committees in the national assembly to see how we can use legislative backing to rejig the amount that goes to remediation and the amount the goes for livelihood and ERA is recommending a 20% from the remediation fund to go to direct empowerment to address rural poverty and people who have suffered consistently from this pollution”.
He also calls on the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA to be more professional in its role of monitoring and certifying the process urging it to more involved in the process in terms of monitoring and evaluation.
“I want to take this opportunity to appeal to NOSDRA to play a professional role in monitoring and certification of the cleanup sites. They should be involved, not just being involved but be involved in the cleanup in terms of the testing, I think that is very important to me”, Dr Ojo urged.
He added; “I want to appeal to the Federal Government of Nigeria to put in place a more formidable structure, talking about restricting the HYPREP. It is now to restructure HYPREP so that it will be able to deliver effectively and conduct a proper cleanup. Excavation of sand does not give an indication of what is going on. We need testing and to me, the missing link is the monitoring and evaluation.
The sites, some of the contractors are not monitoring on their own and people who conduct independent monitoring are not regular. And so these are some of the issues that we discovered.
But what is important is that in some sites NOSDRA has only been to the site, once or twice since September last year. Now those are issues. In the field we discovered that NOSDRA was not regular to some of the sites, they confirmed to me there and the team that NOSDRA was not there”.