By G9ija

The joint National Assembly Committee on Ecology and Climate Change has decried the slow pace at which the Ogoni cleanup exercise was being carried out.

The lawmakers expressed regret over the pace of the Ogoni cleanup exercise on Wednesday, when they visited some of the oil-polluted sites in Ogoniland.

They called on Hydro Carbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), which is coordinating the remediation process, and respective contractors handling the remediation work to be serious, lamenting that the Ogoni cleanup exercise which was fixed to be finished in six months was still ongoing after one and half years.

The Senate committee visited Ogoniland to inspect the cleanup exercise on the instance of the Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria ERA/FoEN.

The chairman of the committee, Senator Hassan Mohammed Gusau, who led the team said, “Let the contractors be serious and also let them be up to date because they were given six months but most of them are one and half years old, they are also giving their own excuses but all that excuse are not tenable.

“I’m sure that with our presence and way and manner we motivated them, they will adjust. So I’m just appealing to them to speed up the action. What is the need for us to keep money waiting?”

He, equally, called on HYPREP to be very transparent in its implementation of the remediation programme.

Further hinting that the committee would be inviting HYPREP for a meeting, Gasau said after looking into some of the documents of the firm that the committee had requested for stakeholders to be more patient with the body to enable it to do proper work.

“Actually to my own side, I observed that it is a technical work, it is not a work that somebody should rush on. If care is not taken money can be spent and it will not be of any benefits. So I advise that it shouldn’t be rushed. They should allow technical people to do their job so that we can be proud after the job is completed,” Gasau said.

Meanwhile, ERA/FoEN has recommended that 20 per cent of the remediation funds be channelled into community development in the interest of the rural people who were mostly impacted by the pollution.

ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Dr Godwin Ojo, after the visit told newsmen that for the remediation process to make the desired impact, the lives of the people should be adequately considered.

“The whole essence of the cleanup is about people, the livelihood of the rural people, the fishing and farming have been grossly neglected. So we are in discussion with the expert committees in the national assembly to see how we can use legislative backing to rejig the amount that goes to remediation and the amount the goes for livelihood and ERA is recommending a 20% from the remediation fund to go to direct empowerment to address rural poverty and people who have suffered consistently from this pollution,” he said.

He went further to say, “I want to take this opportunity to appeal to NOSDRA (National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency) to play a professional role in monitoring and certification of the cleanup sites. They should be involved, not just being involved but be involved in the cleanup in terms of the testing, I think that is very important to me.

“I want to appeal to the Federal Government of Nigeria to put in place a more formidable structure, talking about restricting the HYPREP. It is now to restructure HYPREP so that it will be able to deliver effectively and conduct a proper cleanup.

Excavation of sand does not give an indication of what is going on. We need testing and to me, the missing link is the monitoring and evaluation.

“The sites, some of the contractors are not monitoring on their own and people who conduct independent monitoring are not regular. And so these are some of the issues that we discovered.

“But what is important is that in some sites NOSDRA has only been to the site, once or twice since September last year. Now those are issues. In the field we discovered that NOSDRA was not regular to some of the sites, they confirmed to me there and the team that NOSDRA was not there”.