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Ogoni Clean-Up: HYPREP Lacks Capacity to Spend — ERA

Calls for NASS Intervention

Tells FG to remove tax on Renewable Energy Products

Ogoni Clean-Up: HYPREP Lacks Capacity to Spend — ERA

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FoEN, has raised the alarm that the clean-up exercise in Ogoni land on oil pollution may take longer time, alleging that the body saddled with the responsibility lacks the capacity to carry out the huge assignment.

This is as the environmental group has called on the Federal Government to grant tax holiday for all renewable energy products in the country in a bid to address the challenge of global warming and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Meantime, ERA has appealed to the National Assembly to intervene in the Ogoni Clean-Up exercise.

READ ALSO: Rivers govt, Ogoni land move to reintegrate Benin Republic returnees

Briefing journalists in Abuja on “Policy Brief on the Key Performance Indicators for the Ogoni Clean Up and the need for National Assembly to exercise oversight functions in the clean-up process” the Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo said that if care was not taken, the exercise would be derailed.

Dr. Ojo said that HYPREP lacked the capacity to spend the funds made available to it for the Ogoni clean-up exercise.

According to him, “Closely aligned with its glaring organizational capacity deficiencies has been the inability of HYPREP to spend the funds made available to it. The HYPREP gazette clearly states that HYPREP will receive at least $200 million dollars every year until the $ 1 billion dollars recommended by the UNEP report for the cleanup of Ogoniland is achieved with an initial five year period.

“The present management of HYPREP which was appointed in early 2017 will be marking its third anniversary in another two months and it is still struggling to spend the initial $170 million contributed by the stakeholders on secondary or less polluted sites rather than on primary or heavy polluted sites.

“It is yet to provide Ogoni stakeholders and the general public with a transparent and accurate report of how much it has expended so far and the activities on which these expenses were incurred.  HYPREP is due to receive US$600m by 2020 but has no rolling Workplan to allocate this.

“While HYPREP may be plagued by bureaucracy and political patronage, HYPREP lacks operational independence hence the need for the National assembly to provide for legislative backing for the cleanup process and conduct oversight functions over the cleanup process. The Environmental Rights Action offers the national assembly a guided tour of the polluted sites if the need arises.”

READ ALSO: It will take 25 years to fully clean up Ogoni land – Jibril

He alleged that there was a deviation from the UNEP recommendations, claiming that HYPREP reneged on the Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Centre.

He said,” There are concerns being raised about the delay in the commencement of work on the Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Centre (ICMSC) as recommended by the 2011 UNEP report.

“The ICMSC to provide broad-based capacity building for the Ogonis has been completely sidelined and this portends grave danger for the clean-up. We condemned the decision of the HYPREP team to use bio-cells remediation technique to treat impacted soil at this stage with the lame excuse that

“it is unable to find a suitable template for an Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Center. But from its body language HYPREP is unwilling to build this facility recommended by UNEP in Ogoniland. But this should have been a priority for the project.”

“Similarly, HYPREP is unwilling to commence the construction of the Center of Excellence recommended by UNEP. Again, its argument for not going ahead with the construction of the center of excellence is that the UNEP report says that the center will be a place for learning, research, and knowledge sharing at the end of the project.

“HYPREP does not understand the need to record and document every step of the clean up as a learning process which the centre can offer as a learning institution in the pre, during and post clean up phases.

“The argument that Centre of Excellence will be built 30 years at the end of the clean up is senseless and ludicrous. Part of the $200 million each year in the initial five years totaling $1 billion as  recommended by UNEP for the Ogoni cleanup process ought to be used for the provision of this centre of excellence. ”

ERA also decried what it described as the overbearing bureaucratic influence of the Federal Ministry of Environment- as HYPREP is tied very firmly to the apron strings of the Federal Minister of Environment and critical decisions about processes and activities within HYPREP usually have to receive the imprimatur of the minister before they are implemented.

“This situation has meant that the Project coordinator is often in Abuja ostensibly lobbying the minister to get things done. While the program coordinator is thus otherwise engaged in Abuja, activities at the project office are brought to a halt until the project coordinator returns from his visit to Abuja.”

Making recommendations to the necessary stakeholders in the Ogoni clean up exercise, Ojo said, ” As a matter of urgency, the National Assembly should urgently intervene in the Ogoni cleanup process by directing appropriate committees to provide oversight functions on the cleanup process.

“In particular, unqualified contractors were procured for the cleanup, and lacking a robust Key Performance Indicators to measure the quality of remediation.

“NASS oversight function will prevent the dissipation of public revenue and at this early stage and halt the drift of HYPREP towards the fate of similar laudable interventions in the Niger Delta that went into private pockets instead of addressing the needs of the people and the environment.

“The national assembly should adopt the HYPREP gazette and rework it with appropriate modifications and pass it into law to provide legislator backing with independent status.

“This will ensure more robust and legally binding supervision of HYPREP and the funds committed to it. While we urge the early release of the US$600 million due to it by 2020, HYPREP failed to demonstrate the capacity to spend thereby requiring an overhaul.

“To re-iterate, if urgent and decisive action is not taken to refocus HYPREP we may have another white elephant intervention in the Niger Delta region like others before it that have failed to turn the fortunes of the region around for the good of long-suffering communities in the region. In a nutshell, the structure and operations of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) should be urgently reviewed by the National Assembly to ensure proper oversight of its activities.”

On removing taxes on renewable products, ERA also canvassed for decentralization of renewable energy production and supply so as to allow governments, civil society groups, communities, and the private sector to participate in the energy sector supply chain.

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