The factional President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Fegalo Nsuke has urged the federal government to dissolve the governing Board of Hydrocarbon Pollution and Restoration Project ( HYPREP) due to alleged massive corruption. In this interview with DANIEL ABIA, he opened up on the quality of contractors handling the cleanup exercise in Ogoni, plus other issues. Excerpts:
From your comments in recent times, it appears you have lost faith in the Ogoni cleanup. Is it impatience or because your expectation and those of some Ogoni have not been met?
As a people, we advocated for the cleanup of Ogoniland and paid prices, made sacrifices for that to be achieved. Now we have the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, HYPREP, in place to implement the UNEP report on Ogoni. Even though we know the report had been funded and written in favour of Shell, we still accepted its implementation with the hope it could lead to a clean Ogoniland. The problem is that the report is not followed. The report is not implemented to bring benefits to the communities and all aspects that should benefit the people are jettisoned. When you are implementing a remediation program in an area where the drinking water has been polluted and much damage has been done to livelihoods, the first thing you do is provide an alternative source of safe drinking water. The next thing is to assess the extent of damage done to people’s sources of livelihood so you can pay compensation for the damages. You simply cannot do a remediation without compensation for damages. These are the critical aspects of the remediation which concern the people and have been neglected. Back to the UNEP report on Ogoni, it was also recommended that an assessment be done on the health of the people. A health audit does not mean conducting a one day program to treat malaria, give Panadol and Flagyl. What we expected is a complete upgrade on existing medical facilities to enable people visit the health centers for an assessment and get further help. A department can be dedicated within the hospitals to conduct the audit and this will be on a continuous basis and not an ad-hoc one or two day intervention as we saw with HYPREP. So, we are disappointed that the implementation is not delivering on our expectations and the primary recommendations which should positively impact the Ogoni environment. HYPREP has instead focused on enriching certain individuals. Contracts being awarded to unqualified firms and even those who were not registered during the pre-qualification assessment are making the list of contractors. The entire program has been ridden with corruption. And that is why we have called for the dissolution of the governing structures that have promoted the corruption in HYPREP.
You have consistently faulted the handling of the clean-up by HYPREP; what is your main grouse with the body?
The trouble is that the Ogoni people continue to drink polluted water whereas HYPREP has spent billions of cleanup funds without addressing the water crises which is a direct consequence of Shell’s pollution in Ogoniland. HYPREP was initially given US$10million to take off. That is an estimated N3.6billion. All of that money has been spent on internal processes without any move to address the water and health problems raised in the UNEP report. That again reflects the corruption in HYPREP. An organization that does not need more than 10 support staff running over 40 and wasting money on frivolous items. All of which is to cover up the loots that are currently going on in HYPREP. The other thing is that livelihoods have been destroyed in Ogoni and Shell and HYPREP are not talking about how to compensate the people for the loses. They are spending billions on themselves and remain silent about families that barely survive daily due to the destruction of their farmlands and fishing businesses. When you take a look at the contractors, you find that they were all selected out of a compromised process. Over 70 percent of the contractors were unqualified firms that will require to sign a different contract with another firm to do the cleanup on their behalf. The Ogoni cleanup had been converted by HYPREP into a self-enrichment programme and a tool for political patronage. Those compromises are the reasons we have called for the dissolution of the HYPREP Governing Council and an investigation into the cleanup contracts because we have seen clear compromises on the part of the Governing Council of HYPREP.
But Marvin Dekil, the head of HYPREP has kickstarted the cleanup process, and has assured Ogoni that he would ensure that their environment is cleaned up? Recently, he reeled out some of the milestones HYPREP has reached in the cleanup, so why the worry?
We have asked them to explain to us how they are handling the contaminated soil in the absence of the Integrated Soil Management Center which was recommended by UNEP to handle the contaminated waste. They have not been able to answer that question because they have no plan in place to handle the contaminated soil. So it is all a cover up of the oil spills and not a cleanup. If you do an investigation into the activities of HYPREP and their unqualified contractors, you will find a link between the contractors and at least a member of the HYPREP Governing Council. That is why we have called for the dissolution of the current governing council and a new one be put in place so we can have an independent investigation. We insist that there is a massive corruption going on in HYPREP and a government that claims to be fighting corruption cannot be silent about that. I attended a town hall meeting organized by Social Acton in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 at the Algate Congress hotel and a representative of HYPREP was there to tell us they were working with the Center for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CERHD) to draw up key performance indicators. That tells you that they have no plan in place. We have asked them to make their plan public because it should be a public document when you are dealing with the people, they have not been able to. They are just trying to set key performance indicators which essentially tells you HYPREP does not have a plan in place. Yet, they have awarded contracts. The fact is that the entire process have been driven by personal gains and not to deliver benefits for the Ogoni people and with the way HYPREP is going, they are bound to fail and Ogoni will remain polluted after their work and expenditure of billions of dollars.
Let’s discuss insecurity in Ogoniland, fuelled mainly by cultism. What is the way out of this madness? What is MOSOP and other critical stakeholders doing to promote security in Ogoniland?
An immediate intervention, I would think, should be to boost Police presence in Ogoni and immediately transfer all Police officers that have served over 2 years in Ogoni. We say so because we have credible information linking the Police officers to be focused on arrests and taking monies for bail instead of helping secure Ogoni. We have also seen a link between security officers and a flourishing illegal oil business. Gangsterism in Ogoniland is sponsored by politicians and the Nigerian oil industry. I am sure government intelligence should be pointing to that but their inactivity could be politically influenced. The way out would be to stop the politicians and the companies sponsoring these crimes. The desperation of the Nigerian oil industry to resume oil exploration in Ogoni against the wishes of the people is a big problem.
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