An Environmental Rights Activist, Nnimmo Bassey, has called on the Ogoni people in particular and Nigerians in general to support the ongoing Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project HYPREP aimed at a total clean-up of Ogoniland.

Bassey made the call when he led a delegation of members of Oil Watch Africa from 15 African countries to HYPREP, who were on an assessment visit to some remediation sites in Ogoniland.

The Oil Watch is a network of resistance to oil activities in tropical countries.

Project Coordinator of HYPREP, Dr. Marvin Barinem Dekil, who played host to the delegation, explained the processes adopted by HYPREP in the clean-up, also disclosed that the clean-up project began eight years after the United Nations Environment Programme UNEP submitted the report to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

He stated that the time between the date of submission in 2011 and 2016 when the actual clean-up was officially flagged off by President Muhammadu Buhari necessitated the review and modification of some of the strategies recommended in the report. 

“The review and modification of some of the strategies does not mean that HYPREP has deviated from the recommendations in the UNEP Report since all such modifications are done with the input of UNEP”, the Project Coordinator said.

While inspecting one of the remediation sites, Bassey expressed satisfaction with the works HYPREP is doing and confirmed that remediation has commenced in Ogoniland.

He however expressed disappointment that though several physical activities are going on at various sites across Ogoniland, people still allege that the clean-up has not commenced.  Bassey said he appreciates the anxiety of the people who expect to see the work move at a very fast pace but pointed out that the clean-up project is a highly technical and complex work that requires expertise, experience and a lot of preparations. 

Speaking to HYPREP in-house Media Team, Nnimmo Bassey said members of the Oil Watch Africa were in Port Harcourt for a conference on the impact of oil on the continent.

 He said it was important for the team to visit Ogoniland to see the work that HYPREP is doing and to see the state of the cleanup efforts. 

The human rights activist said the visit was also to enable members from other African countries learn about the consequences of pollution and how difficult it is to restore the environment after pollution has occurred.  Bassey said keeping the environment clean was everybody’s business as hydrocarbon pollution affects both the environment and humans and urged all stakeholders to ensure that Ogoniland remains clean after the clean-up.

He dismissed insinuations that HYPREP funds are being mismanaged, explained that the structure set up for the management of finances and for appropriating funds for HYPREP project is very well set up.

Bassey who is also a member of the HYPREP Board of Trustees (BoT) stated that people of integrity with very stringent control over finances are on the board of the Project, adding that the funds for the Project is held by the Ogoni Trust Fund with community people and other stakeholders as signatories to the account and not a kobo goes out without due process.

He said: “HYPREP office does not determine which fund is released and which fund is being used.  The strict nature of the control and the milestone set by HYPREP and the whole organisational structure, the BOT, GC, PCO, is such that any fund to be released must be matched by clear set goals and what it is going to be used for.

“The clean-up is an excellent avenue to get youths employed to multiply skills that can be extended to other Niger Delta communities by the time the remediation project is expanded. This is an incubation lab. We must do all we can to ensure that this is a success that the environment is restored’.  He encouraged youths to take advantage of the employment and training opportunities that the Project offers”.

He emphasised that Ogoni clean-up is a signature project and that everyone involved in the delivery of this project desires to leave a legacy and called on everyone who doubts the commencement of the clean-up to visit the remediation sites across Ogoniland to see things for themselves and urged everyone to be patient with HYPREP since remediation is on course.