The Minister of State for Environment, Barr. Sharon Ikeazor, has met with the people of Ogoni communities to dialogue on the ongoing environmental remediation of oil-impacted sites in the area being carried out by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP).
Addressing the community leaders, youths, women groups and other stakeholders in Ogoni at a forum held in Bori, the council headquarters of Khana local government area of Rivers State, Ikeazor promised to address the concerns raised by the community over the project.
She explained that the essence of the meeting was to interact with them to find out the areas of the project they think need improvement, to ensure better delivery on the mandate of the project and not the usual reading of prepared speeches.
“I would like to hear from you, and I will respond and tell you what we have planned for the Ogoniland clean-up project.
“I know we are behind schedule in some key areas and I appreciate the concerns you raised here today about the project. This will help us to work together to fast-track the process, taking into consideration the benefits to the communities.
“We want to work with the youths and women groups to acquire the skills and be empowered for a sustainable living so that we would not be doing this over and over again,” she said.
Earlier in his remarks, the HYPREP project coordinator, Prof. Philip Shekwolo, highlighted the achievements of the project in the areas of remediation, provision of potable water and livelihood training programmes, amongst others.
In his submission, His Royal Majesty, the Gbenemene of Tai Kingdom, King Godwin Gininwa, said though HYPREP is not for only Ogoni, Ogoni people should be considered first before other communities, as their land has suffered so much degradation.
The chieftain appealed to the Federal Government to commence work on the proposed University of Environment to be sited in Ogoniland, as it will assist in educating and training the people and put them in a better position to assist the community in managing its immediate environment.
Other community leaders at the event also confessed to being happy with the efforts and enthusiasm of the minister and asked her to do her best in ensuring that the clean-up project makes the desired impact on the lives of the people of the area.
In his comments, the former president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and member of Gbo Kabaari, Ledum Mitee, called for more visible benefits to come the way of the people of Ogoni.
“What we do that does not affect the life of our people is no clean-up. I will call what is happening a patronage mechanism and we need to diffuse it and make it inclusive for the effect of the clean-up to be felt by Ogoni people,” he said.
Mitee further called for the establishment of industries in the region to employ more people “instead of giving handouts”.
Speaking on behalf of the chairmen of Gokana, Eleme and Tai councils, the local government council chairman of Khana, Bariere Thomas, reiterated their support for HYPREP and pledged their commitment to the success of the project.
He also appealed to HYPREP to commence the building of the Centre of Excellence, as outlined in the UNEP report and commended the minister on her pragmatic steps to set HYPREP on the right path.
“I want to, on behalf of my colleagues, assure you that we are impressed with your leadership as we have seen humility, commitment and sincerity of purpose in your approach,” he stated.
A statement by the ministry’s director of press, Saghir el Mohammed, said the minister later undertook an inspection visit to the Alesa Water Station and some remediated sites in Alode, Eleme, where she was impressed with the work done, after seeing the remediated lots with flourishing vegetation – an indication of the regeneration of the ecosystem.