National Assembly members have frowned at the delay in the remediation on the polluted sites in Ogoni, nine years after the United Nations Environment programme (UNEP) submitted its report.
The lawmakers, comprising Senate Committee on Ecology and Climate Change and House of Representatives Committee on Climate Change, were on inspection visit organised by Environmental Rights Action (ERA)/Friends of the Earth Nigeria to the polluted sites.
ERA also used the occasion to release a 40-page report titled: ‘No Cleanup, No justice’, an evaluation of the implementation of the UNEP’s Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland, nine years on.
The team include; Chairman, Senate Committee on Climate and Ecology, Senator Hassan Gusau, Hon. Suleiman Gumi, Hon.Musa Mohammed, Hon.Benjamin Kalu and Hon. Onuoha Miriam.
The lawmakers queried the transparency and accountability of the managers of the polluted sites – Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), regarding exchange rate used in the determination of the fund and lack of audited account as well as their inability to complete some of the sites since 2018.
“Even though HYPREP had subdivided the initial 10 sites into 21 lots. Which meant more contractors were hired, progress has been painfully slow.”
The Senators and Reps also said that the project lacked monitoring and evaluation as pointed out in that latest UNEP progress report, “there is no clear monitoring and evaluation plan or even understanding what to monitor. It remains unclear within the HYPREP structure who is responsible for assessment and cleanup supervision.”
They urged the HYPREP officials to submit detailed report on its monitoring and evaluation plan as well as process for handling carbon materials excavated during the cleanup exercise.
They also queried the use of unreliable laboratories. “A UNEP report entitled preliminary assessment of HYPREP approved laboratories of September 2019 showed that none of the laboratories approved for use by HYPREP has the required accreditation.
“UNEP concluded that “ the quality and reliability of the results produced from these laboratories were questionable. How will HYPREP guarantee the companies contracted for clean up have the expertise required?”
Earlier, ERA Executive Director, Dr. Uyi Ojo, called for the immediate restructuring of HYPREP to reposition it for more effective cleanup, and implementation of all emergency measures recommended by UNEP, especially the provision of potable water and conduct of health audit in impacted communities.
Ojo also urged the government to enforce the polluter pays principle and the establishment of clean up and remediation fund of $100 billion for the cleanup of the entire Niger Delta.
He said: “The certification of NOSDRA must be sought before HYPREP gives the go ahead for excavated trenches to be backed filled. An independent verification mechanism is set up to evaluate whether the remediation work by contractors meet the parameters set out in the contractual agreement.”
Responding, Project Coordinator of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, Dr. Marvin Dekil, explained that National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) certified all the laboratories being used in the project.
Dekil stated that the completed sites would be subjected to further verification to confirm that they have been fully remediated. “Samples from the remediated sites will be sent to local and international laboratories and then certified by NOSDRA.”
He disclosed that all 21 contractors in the phase 1, batch 1 of the remediation project would have completed work and formally handover the sites by December 2020.
He noted that five contractors have completed works in Eleme, Gokana and Tai LGAs. He named the lots completed in Eleme as lot 2 Obolo, Ebubu and 8, Nkeleoken, Alode. In Tai, the lots are 17, Bara Akpor Botem and 18, Korokoro Well 9. While in Gokana lot 10, Deebon Bodo/Mogho has also been completed. He further disclosed that another 36 lots were awarded to contractors who have commenced mobilization to sites.
On water, he explained that within the last one year, the project has advanced significantly in its bid to provide potable water that is sustainable as well as meet WHO standard to communities.
This, he said is being done in partnership with the Rivers State Government through the Ministry of Water Resources, the Four LGAs in Ogoniland and the communities.
According to him, the bid opening for the selection of six water contractors was a major milestone towards the provision of potable water to most communities in Ogoniland.
Similarly, Dekil disclosed that the livelihood component of the project is getting its due attention following the commissioning of the cassava processing factory in Korokoro Tai, and the kick-off of the training of 1200 women across the four LGAs of Ogoniland.