Stop paying lip service to Ogoni clean-up, ERA/FoEN tells FG

THE Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth (ERA/FoEN) has again tasked the Federal Government to stop paying lip service to clean up Ogoniland, just as it decried the lack of clarity in the process after four years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

It also accused the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) of deviating from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recommendation in the clean-up of Ogoniland.

Executive Director of ERA, Dr Godwin Ojo, who stated this in Abuja while addressing a press conference, said eight years after the UNEP report was released, the Federal Government has been paying lip service to programme.

He said that there was fundamental deviation by HYPREP from the recommendations, adding that the absence of an Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Centre as well as a centre of excellence to train the Ogoni and raise the needed manpower for the clean-up has been sidelined.

According to him, “In July 2019, during ERA’s monitoring visit to clean up sites in Ogoni, ERA field monitors, media representatives, community leaders and leaders of civil society organisations were prevented by the community youths in Alode and Ejama Ebubu communities in Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State. We condemn the militarisation of the clean up process by HYPREP surrogates and in particular the prevention of ERA-led volunteers to carry out inspection of the sites.”

Dr Ojo insisted that independent field monitors required no approval before inspection of any polluted sites, hence HYPREP’s attitude was rather surprising.

“What is HYPREP hiding, why are they refusing to wake up and open up to the people?” he asked.

He, therefore, called on the Federal Government to call HYPREP to halt the deviation and implement the UNEP report, following the detailed recommendation of the UN agency.

“The National Assembly should carry out its responsibility and conduct oversight function on the clean up with a view to tracking the fund released and ensure that the 2019 outstanding $200 million is paid promptly.

“HYPREP must as a matter of urgency conduct emergency relief measures. In particular, it should highlight a short term measure for providing potable drinking water to communities drinking polluted water in Eleme Local Council and other polluted areas.

“HYPREP should engage experts with local technical knowledge of Ogoniland to develop a proper key performance indicators and feasible work plan that indicate short, medium and longer term goals of the project’s life cycle.

“Shell should immediately withdraw from HYPREP governance structures as this will compromise the clean-up process,” he added.

“Shell should not force the RENA clean up and remediation technique on the clean up process since UNEP report clearly indicates that this system is not suitable for cleanup of Ogoniland,” Ojo noted