Some elders of Ogoniland under the aegis of GBO KABAARI OGONI (Forum of Ogoni Elders and Leaders), have kicked against the ongoing cleanup exercise in the kingdom, describing it as a sham.
The group said it was regrettable that the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project saddled with the responsibility of the cleanup had continued in the most unfortunate path of reinforcing failure and engaging in propaganda to cover up its failures at the expense of the health and lives of the people of Ogoni.
Senator Bennett Birabo, Chairman, and Dr Desmond Nbete, Secretary of the Ogoni Elders and Leaders Forum, in a statement posited that HYPREP as presently structured, cannot function efficiently to deliver on an important and colossal project such as this.
The statement reads, “The UNEP report which necessitated the establishment of HYPREP highlighted the raging environmental emergency in Ogoniland. HYPREP, as currently structured, is heavily laden with unnecessary byzantine bureaucracies. The two layers of governance – the Governing Council and the Board of Trustees – as well as the complicated ministerial bureaucracies and their overarching and competing influence, all struggle for the attention and control of an agency (HYPREP) that ought to be focused on implementing the scientific and socio-economic recommendations of the UNEP Report.
”Worse still, this complex governance structure is largely composed of political appointees with indefinite tenures of appointment, as well as representatives of the oil companies that polluted Ogoniland in the first instance.
“With the majority of members being direct and indirect representatives of the complicit JV-structure that led to the pollution, the executive decisions for the cleanup can be easily influenced by these interests.
“Perhaps, equally worrisome is the fact that persons who have been part of the problem in the first place were now being put in charge of critical aspects of the equation. Here, we recall that one Dr Philip Shekwolo, who just retired from his role in Shell as the officer in charge of ‘remediation’ that supervised the cover ups called cleanups in Ogoni is now the head of HYPREP’s operations. In fact, Dr Philip just took over in HYPREP from one Musa, who was the NOSDRA officer that used to certify the corner-cutting and fraudulent clean-up jobs in Ogoni, whilst the said Musa has been moved back to NOSDRA to certify what would be the eventual product of Dr Philips’ operations in HYPREP. 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.
”Also, as we have noted before, HYPREP as presently constituted, has no life of its own. It was set up by a Presidential directive (later gazette), and has no legislative instrument to give it a life, impetus and legal personality. HYPREP as presently structured and constituted, exists at the pleasures and mercies of the President. We strongly believe that should not be the case for an important project such as this.
Officials of HYPREP are yet to comment on the issue raised by the Ogoni Elders and Leaders Forum.