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Environment minister hands 40 percent of $1bn remediation jobs to Ogoni

Environment minister hands 40 percent of $1bn remediation jobs to Ogoni

Ogoni communities have won 40 percent of all remediation jobs going on in the $1billion UNEP recommended project in the environmentally devastated area.

This was made known by Balarabe Abbas Lawal, Minister of Environment, while flagging off mangrove areas cleaning phase on Tuesday, December 19, 2023 being executed by the Hydrocarbon Remediation Project (HYPREP).

The minister also inspected and commissioned four water projects that have been completed. The inauguration took place at a ceremony held at the premises of one of the Terabor Water projects in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State.

Lawal assured the Ogoni people of his commitment to involving them, from planning to the execution of the project. This he said is a decision, which would help the Federal Government and HYPREP execute projects and implement programmes that meet the needs of the people and ensure an effective clean up exercise that would meet international standards, in line with the recommendations of UNEP.

He specifically said the 40 percent of the projects would be reserved for the women and youths of Ogoni to ensure inclusion of all in the activities of HYPREP.

The minister, during a courtesy visit on Festus Babari Bagia-Paago, Gberesaakoo the XIII, Gberemene of Gokana, solicited the continuous support of the various stakeholders in Ogoni, especially the traditional rulers and chiefs, in the implementation of the clean-up exercise. He warned against incessant and unnecessary protests and litigations as well as other negative conducts aimed at disrupting the activities of HYPREP, a move which he said would not benefit the generality of Ogoni people.

Lawal said the visit, which is his first since his assumption of office as the Federal Minister for Environment, is the beginning of more things to come.

He said he would directly be involved in the planning and monitoring process to ensure that Ogoni people, whom he admitted have suffered tremendously due to the damage caused by oil exploration, deserved a better living condition.

He said this issue tops the agenda of President Ahmed Bola Tinubu.

The minister said that the Federal Government and HYPREP would not stop at the provision of portable water but will continue to provide medical and healthcare services, training and skill acquisition, and all other forms of empowerment recommended in the UNEP Report.

Nenibarini Zabbey, a professor and project coordinator, said that one of the cardinal mandates of HYPREP was the provision of portable water to the people.

The commissioning of the phase one water project in the area seemed to be further affirmation of the commitment of FG through HYPREP.

Zabbey, in his project description stated that the Terabor Water Project in Gokana has a tank capacity of 900,000 litres and a reticulation distance of 80 kilometers across seven communities in Gokana, namely, Bera, Nweol, Mogho,Kpor, Lewe,Gbe and Giokoo.

The facility in Korokoro Tai holds 500,000 litres, with reticulation distance of 23 Kilometers expected to feed the Ueken community, while the Ebubu Eleme facility will house 650,000 litres of water with a reticulation distance of 31 kilometers. The Kpean facility in Khana will accommodate 500,000 and distribute to a distance of up to 31 kilometers.

On sustainability plans for the project, the project coordinator said the water scheme would be run by HYPREP for three years, in collaboration with the communities, Rivers State Ministry of Water Resources and Rural Development, NGO’s and the various local government councils. He also plans to establish a community-based water consumer association to see to the efficient utilisation of the project.

The professor outlined some of the ongoing projects by HYPREP to include the land and shoreline protection, Ogoni Specialists Hospital, the Buan Cottage Hospital, Centre for Excellence for Environmental Restoration, the Ogoni Power Project, a free medical outreach in all four local governments of Ogoni, as well as skill acquisition programmes, a step which he said is meant to cover lost grounds.

Responding on behalf of the Gberemene of Gokana, the Gokana traditional rulers council and the people of the area, Michael Tekuru, chairman of Gokana traditional rulers council, thanked the minister for visiting and also thanked President Bola Tinubu for making the Ogoni Clean-up a priority.

Tekuru appealed for the involvement of the traditional institutions in Ogoni in the process.

Tekuru emphasized that all the people of Ogoni and the rest of the Niger Delta is asking for an environment where they can farm and fish and be able to feed themselves without resorting to begging for food as a result of environmental pollution.

On the need to ensure compliance with international standards and best practices, the Gberemene Bangha, Suanu Baridam, called for the establishment of a Ministerial Committee to inspect and monitor the quality of the clean-up done so far to ensure they met specifications for environmental remediation.

Some beneficiaries of the water project commended HYPREP and the Federal Government for the gesture as they said Ogoni people have suffered tremendous health hazards which led to the death of many due to lack of access to clean and safe drinking water.

They urged the management of HYPREP to sustain the momentum and not allow themselves to be distracted by activities of a few bent on truncating the exercise for selfish reasons.