Groups reject transfer of Ogoni cleanup out of Ministry of Environment

Groups in Rivers State have rejected the transfer of the Ogoni cleanup from the purview of a minister from Rivers State. This is how they seem to understand the transfer of the Hydrogen Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) worth over N500bn ($1bn) from the Ministry of Environment where a Rivers State son is minister to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs where an Akwa Ibom son is in charge.

Since the announcement was made, groups in Rivers State have continued to react. The latest is the Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC) founded by an Ogoni son which has described the transfer by President Muhammadu Buhari as an unacceptable action.

The Executive Director, Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface, said in a statement in Port Harcourt that the action would take the project from ‘frying pan to fire.’ YEAC said it thus rejected the President’s action, saying it is not the solution to the slow pace of work that has characterized the project since inception.

YEAC said President Buhari, represented by Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, had on Thursday at the Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, in a live broadcast on Channels TV while declaring the Management Retreat of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) open decried the slow pace of work on Ogoni clean-up, and announced the transfer of HYPREP to Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. The President also demanded for monthly report on the clean-up exercise among others.

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The group wondered why HYPREP which was transferred from the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to the Ministry of Environment where professionalism exists following the outcry of the Ogoni people would now be transferred to Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs where experience or professionalism on environmental issues is totally absent for supervision.

Fyneface suspected that the Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Sharon Ikeazor, who had spent years working on the Ogoni Clean-up Project as Minister of State for Environment but recently redeployed to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, as the alleged mastermind of the transfer for the project to go there with her to further superintend over it.

He said: “It is regrettable that at a time that the new Project Coordinator, Dr. Ferdinand Giadom and Minister of Environment, Barr. Mohammed Abdullahi barely took over months back with some actions like linking Ogoni land to the Afam power station, sustenance of efforts on the provision of portable water and steps taken to commence the Centre of Excellence, Integrated Soil Management Centre, remediation of complex sites are being done; a distracting and frustrating action of this nature would tiptoe into the Project.”

The Executive Director said President Buhari may not be aware of the transfer of HYPREP to Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs or may have been deceived to do so by those who allegedly want to further frustrate the project because they were no longer in charge of it at the Ministry of Environment and calls for investigation and perpetrators brought to book.

The YEAC boss demanded the resignation or sack of Sharon Ikeazor and that HYPREP be returned to the Ministry of Environment or immediately enact a law for HYPREP to be an independent body with an equal legal standing with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The group urged Ikeazor and some others to desist from actions capable of returning Ogoniland to its dark days. He said “Those behind this action are aiming to further frustrate the Ogoni Clean-up. The prostitute nature of HYPREP which had seen it transferred between three Ministries since inception, frequent changing of ministers as well as administrative bottlenecks in the supervising ministries among others are partly responsible for its inability to diligently implement the UNEP Report 2011 on Ogoniland according to specification.”

The group said the transfer is ill-advised, won’t work and that Ogoni people would be mobilised against the seeming kite being flown by antagonists of Ogoni people till the decision is rescinde.

YEAC said the action will drag HYPREP backwards, complicate matters for the project, further slowdown the pace of the Clean-up Exercise and set-back the environmental restoration of Ogoniland and other Niger Delta communities.

While commending President Buhari for his fate in delivering on the Ogoni clean-up, the group urged him to reject the current move that would roll-back the project and the nation on environmental remediation.