The federal government has promised to address the concerns raised by the Ogoni community about the on-going environmental remediation of oil impacted sites in the area being carried out by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP).
The Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, made the promise while addressing 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.
She explained that the essence of the meeting was to interact with them to find out the areas of the project they think needed improvement to better deliver on
the mandate of the project and not the usual reading of prepared speeches.
According to the minister, “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 as this will help us to work together to fast track the process taking into consideration benefits to the communities.”
Ikeazor added that the youths would be engaged as Environmental Surveillance Officers, adding: “We want to work with the youths and women groups to acquire the skills to be empowered for sustainable living so that we would not be doing this over and over again.”
The Project Coordinator of HYPREP, Prof. Philip Shekwolo, in his opening remarks, briefed the stakeholders on the achievements of the project in the areas of remediation, provision of potable water, and livelihood training programmes among others.
In his submission, His Royal Majesty, King Godwin Gininwa, the Gbenemene of Tai Kingdom, said though HYPREP is not for only Ogoni, Ogoni people should be considered first before other communities, as they have suffered so much degradation in their land.
The traditional ruler appealed to the federal government to commence work on the proposed University of Environment to be sited in Ogoniland as it would assist in educating and training the people and put them in a better position to assist the community in managing the environment.
Other community leaders at the event also said they were happy with the efforts and enthusiasm of the minister, asking her to do her best in ensuring that the clean-up project makes the desired impact on the people of the area.
Former President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and member of Gbo Kabaari, Ledum Mitee, in his remarks, called for more visible benefits on the lives of the Ogoni people.
“What we do that does not affect the life of our people is not 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 the Ogoni people,” he said.
Mitee further called for the establishment of industries in the region to employ more people instead of giving them handouts.