…Links insecurity in Ogoni to failure of the cleanup process
By Davies Iheamnachor, Port-Harcourt
Forum of Ogoni Elders and Leaders under the aegis of Gbo Kabaari Ogoni has tasked the Federal Government and the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, HYPREP, to stop playing games with the lives of the people of Ogoni ethnic nationality of Rivers State.
The body composed of prestigious sons and daughters of the area also accused HYPREP of failing to deliver the cleanup project transparently to the oil devastated communities of Ogoni, adding that the project was structured to fail the people.
Sen. (Dr.) Bennett Birabi, the Chairman of the body, in a World Press Conference in Port Harcourt, expressed regrets that in a recent performance index released by the United Nations Environmental Report office that HYPREP scored zero in eight out of ten 10 in a performance index produced.
Birabi, in the statement titled, ‘Ogoni Demands Clean-up Not Propaganda and Rhetorics’, bemoaned that HYPREP has failed to deliver the cleanup project to the people, adding that the lives of the people are being affected by inactions of the project.
He said: “Regrettably, rather than address the issues so raised, HYPREP has instead continued in the unfortunate path of reinforcing failure and engaging in propaganda to cover up its failures at the expense of the health and lives of the hapless people of Ogoni. Some of the issues we drew its attention to earlier, have now snowballed and assumed very complex dimensions.
“This, in our view, is an insulting conspiratorial arrangement to perpetually under-develop Ogoni. It depicts the manner of games that are played with the lives of Ogoni people, but it has got to stop.”
Birabi noted the clean-up project was to provide employment for unemployed youths in the area involved in artisanal refining and, in effect, help to address issues of insecurity in the land, regretting that the failure to meet the emergency need has worsened insecurity in the area.
He expressed worries over the lack of attention to the recommendations of UNEP in the area of emergency, adding that the health of the people were endangered by their continuous exposure to the polluted environment.
“The zero score indicated in the by UNEP means, therefore, that we had zero youth employment in those areas, with its very sad consequences on security. We find this unacceptable and it is our view that by any performance metric, the so much harped Ogoni clean-up has failed thus far.
Sadly, continuously drinking water contaminated with such dangerously high levels of Benzene, a carcinogenic substance, is an obvious threat to this fundamental right of the Nigerian citizen.
“The continuous refusal to implement this all-important recommendation is, therefore, a serious threat to the corporate existence and sustainability of Ogoni people, who as Nigerians are protected by the Nigerian constitution.
“We roundly condemn the unfortunate and offensive attempts by HYPREP to downplay the meaning of “emergency” or, perhaps, input a strange into it. Emergency measures mean emergency measures!”
He, however, called on the Minister of Environment to review the performance challenges in HYPREP and comprehensively overhaul, re-jig and restructure the Project across all levels of the current nested structure in order for the cleanup to be back on track.