Ogoni Clean-Up: FG through HYPREP will provide portable water in Ogoniland

0
113

The Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), was set up with the core mandate to remediate the environment as against the wide misconception that HYPREP was set up to run a parallel government in Ogoniland.

In line with its mandate, HYPREP in 2018 kick started activities towards the commencement of the clean-up exercise with scoping and delineation to ascertain the current status of contamination on the polluted sites. Many may ask why this was necessary and why HYPREP did not go right ahead to commence the remediation process. While those and many other questions were asked, it is necessary to recall that the UNEP environmental assessment report on Ogoni was submitted to the Government of Nigeria in 2011, and it is worthy to note that HYPREP Coordination office began operations in April 2017 immediately after it was set up by the Government of President Muhammadu Buhari. HYPREP commenced preliminary remediation activities in early 2018, eight years after the report was submitted. The state of environmental pollution in 2011 and 2018 cannot be the same.

In 2018, HYPREP delineated and scoped twelve (12) of the Category B sites, of which 21 Lots were defined in the Phase 1-Batch 1 tenders. At the time, many concluded that HYPREP was sleeping on the project because they did not see tractors and bulldozers on site, whereas HYPREP was actually carrying out scoping and delineation, a very crucial aspect of the work that was to serve as a guide and provide the needed baseline data that would determine the appropriate technology and approach for the clean-up.

Also in 2018, HYPREP commenced procurement process for remediation which was publicized in local, national and international tabloids. Twenty-one (21) contractors successfully scaled through the procurement processes as stipulated in the Public Procurement Act of 2007. The companies that came out successful in the exercise so emerged based on merit having met the requirements in the Technical, Financial and Commercial Bids. The Bid Evaluation Committee that evaluated the volumes of documents tendered by prospective companies rigorously verified every single claim of each company from the opening of bids through the technical to the commercial stages that finally culminated in the award of contracts. HYPREP in line with international best practices had to go for the most responsive bidders in line with the Procurement Act. The process was open and transparent.

The Ogoni clean-up – a highly technical project, is the first of its kind in the history of Nigeria described by UNEP as the biggest remediation works carried out by any government, so it is not an all commers affair. Thus, companies that won the remediation contract have competency in remediation and possess the required documents and certifications by appropriate regulatory bodies to carry out remediation works in Nigeria. Every contractor that came out successful scaled through the rigorous procurement process.

In January 2019, 21 contractors were handed over remediation sites in Eleme, Tai, Khana and Gokana Local Government areas of Ogoni. Today, remediation works are on-going on various sites and the contractors are at different stages of work in the impacted communities across Ogoniland.

 Picture-A-Lot-8-Showing-oil-waste-recovery

Picture-A-Lot-8-Showing-oil-waste-recovery
Lot-5-Showing-Ongoing-Treatment-as-at-08.11.19
Lot-5-Showing-Ongoing-Treatment-as-at-08.11.19
ot-6-Showing-Contaminated-soil-in-bio-cell-for-treatment
ot-6-Showing-Contaminated-soil-in-bio-cell-for-treatment
Lot-8-Showing-movement-of-treated-soil-off-Bio-cell
Lot-8-Showing-movement-of-treated-soil-off-Bio-cell

Since the commencement of remediation on all the 21 sites across the four Local Government Areas of Ogoniland, contractors have made tremendous progress and have achieved different levels of progress on their sites. At present, most of the contractors have achieved the first 30% milestone as structured in the contract while others have advanced to the next milestone of 40%.

The Federal Government with good intent has re-engaged the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – (the same UNEP that did the study that provided the basis for the report and recommendations) to work with HYPREP for the next twelve (12) months to provide technical support and build capacity of staff to empower them for optimum and effective performance. It is still surprising that people still say that HYPREP is a scam.

Despite the steady progress made by HYPREP in coordinating the clean-up activities in Ogoniland, many have continued to cast doubts on the project.

In an interview with the Media, the Project Coordinator of HYPREP Dr. Marvin Dekil confirmed that work is going on at different levels on different sites. He acknowledged that there were challenges.

“Do we have challenges? Yes, there are challenges occasioned by traditional issues from the local communities, chieftaincy tussles and ownership of what land. This has slowed down our pace of work significantly. We have the most remarkable success in Tai and Eleme Local Government Areas where most of the work has progressed very impressively”.

On the issues bothering on procurement processes, Dekil said “in the coming year as we progress, we are going to be doing things faster than we had experienced in the past year. We are starting something that has never been done, when you are doing things, the early stages are always more problematic because that is where you test different options to see which one is better. This slows you down, but once you get your template right, then everything just moves. HYPREP has gotten to a point where things will begin to move faster, because we have taken our time to trouble shoot all the challenges that we initially encountered”.

In carrying out its core mandate of remediating oil impacted sites in Ogoniland, HYPREP is also carrying out activities to empower and provide alternative livelihood for the people of Ogoni.

The remediation works going on across Ogoniland has provided employment opportunities for about 800 youths on the 21 remediation sites as well as about 200 Ogoni youths in the Project Coordination Office (PCO). Overall, HYPREP has generated about 1000 jobs for youths of Ogoni.

24 HYPREP scientists employed as Technical Assistants, 90% of whom are young Ogoni scientists have received intensive training in the Management of Contaminated Site Assessment, Clean-up Assessment, Clean-up of Contaminated Sites and Field Work Techniques in Geneva and the United Kingdom organized by UNEP.

The UNEP team has also provided in-house capacity building for Technical Assistants and Communication staff to enable them to perform optimally and efficiently while about 800 community workers were also trained in remediation processes.

While remediation is going on across Ogoniland, HYPREP has designed and commenced the implementation of a robust Livelihood Program to provide alternative livelihood for the people in the oil impacted areas. Fifteen (15) youths have undergone a three month intensive training in the fabrication of cassava processing machines at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Onne organized by HYPREP in collaboration with Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN) and IITA.

Under the Livelihood Program, HYPREP has carried out massive sensitization in 36 oil impacted communities with a record of over 8000 women in attendance. The first batch of 400 women will in a few weeks commence their training program in agriculture and entrepreneurial skills in Songhai Farms in Tai Local Government Area to be handled by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). The trained women will receive post training packages and will be organized into cooperatives for sustainability and easy access to funds.

HYPREP has commenced baseline and needs assessment study to identity skill areas for further training for youths, men and women. The training is designed to accommodate women in both impacted and non-impacted communities as well as literate and non-literate participants.

It is also important to state that, in addition to the ongoing remediation efforts, HYPREP has implemented other recommendations of the UNEP report, including carrying out two medical outreaches in all the four Local Government Areas of Ogoniland aimed at collecting preliminary data for Health Study where over 20,000 cases were treated and over 400 surgeries were carried out, which was well received by the Ogoni people. The data generated during the exercise to be used for medical study as recommended in the UNEP Report. Aside from providing initial data for medical study as recommended in the UNEP Report, the exercise was HYPREP’s medical intervention.

In collaboration with the Rivers State Ministry of Health and UNEP, HYPREP has carried out an assessment of medical facilities in Ogoniland.

The provision of water has been an issue of great concern as many believe that HYPREP was to provide water in the entire Ogoniland. Beyond the recommendations for the provision of water to specified communities as contained in the UNEP Report, HYPREP has carried out water sampling to obtain data towards the provision of World Health Organization standard potable water that will be sustainable to more communities. HYPREP has carried out assessment of water facilities installed by the Rivers State Government, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the Niger Delta Development Commission (NNDC), Shell Petroleum Development Corporation (SPDC) and the Niger Delta Basin Development Authority in collaboration with the Rivers State Ministry of Water Resources and Rural Development towards resuscitating the existing water facilities in the four Local Government Areas of Ogoniland. Procurement process to engage water consultants and water engineering companies has been concluded.

Community participation has been a major focus in the implementation of the clean-up project. This is evident in the numerous stakeholder engagements organized by HYPREP to get the community buy-in for the project.

Since inception, HYPREP has engaged the various stakeholders at various stages of the project to keep them abreast of all the activities. The engagements cover the following:

  • Ogoni Elected Representatives
  • Civil Society Organizations
  • Ogoni elites/Traditional Rulers
  • Women
  • Youths
  • Physically challenged persons

HYPREP is adopting a consultation process which is transparent and inclusive. Stakeholder’s engagements are not just organized for its face value but are considered as a core component of the Project whereby opinions of stakeholders’ form inputs in the project design and implementation.

At the community level, the clean-up project has received huge acceptance and support from critical stakeholders. This is evident in the massive attendance at every fora HYPREP organizes to engage stakeholders where their inputs are harvested to enhance peaceful environment for the smooth and successful implementation of the clean-up.

The clean-up project has received wide acceptance and commendations from the community members who are direct beneficiaries, Ogoni elected members who have pledged their support as well as members of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) having visited various remediation sites to confirm the status of the clean-up. They have all expressed satisfaction at the quality and pace of work on the remediation sites.

The Project Coordinator Dr. Marvin Dekil has consistently stressed that greater transparency and involvement of stakeholders enhances trust, project acceptance, and local ownership, which are key to project sustainability and development outcomes and he has continued to create platforms for continued engagements with critical stakeholders.

Being a community-based project, HYPREP considers greatly the inputs and participation of the community in the process. To deepen community participation, the Central Representatives Advisory Committee (CRAC) was inaugurated with members drawn from the four Local Government Areas of Ogoniland including a representative from the Civil Society Organization. Members of CRAC interface between the project and their communities to bridge communication gap and enhance information flow.

To ensure that the clean-up was done in line with International best practices and in complaint with the recommendations in the UNEP Report, the Federal Government re-engaged UNEP to provide technical support and capacity building for the project. Every process adopted by HYPREP in the implementation of the clean-up is jointly reviewed and approved by the UNEP team.

HYPREP budgets and expenses are as approved by the HYPREP Governing Council before funds can be released by the Board of Trustees and all expenses are fully accounted for.

The project has received international endorsements from:

  • The Dutch Ambassador
  • British Deputy High Commissioner
  • US Ambassador
  • German Ambassador
  • Norwegian Ambassador

Dekil has continued to urge Nigerians to support the project “we have a very rare opportunity to make history in Nigeria, we have a very rare opportunity to put Nigeria on the global map. This is a flagship project that has received overwhelming international endorsements, it is a project that should enjoy the support of all Nigerians”.

Ekaete Umo
HYPREP Head, Information.