Group seeks HYPREP’s independence, threatens legal action, protest over Ogoni cleanup

The Social Development Integrated Centre (SocialAction) has advocated independence of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) from government and Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), if the Ogoni cleanup must be actualised.

It argued that government’s and Shell’s interference in the cleanup process has become intolerable, warning that it would be difficult for the exercise to commence if government keeps controlling HYPREP, while Shell continues as member of the Board of Trustees.

Head, National Advocacy Centre of SocialAction, Vivian Bellonwu, stated this yesterday in Port Harcourt in a request letter to HYPREP seeking information on the cleanup and project contractors.

Bellonwu said, “Government should consider rejigging HYPREP because Ogoniland is under stress and needs urgent rescue. Shell’s membership of the Board of Trustee is slowing down the process, while government’s control of the agency has also hampered the process.”

She added that lack of framework by HYPREP in handling the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoniland has also compounded the problem, thereby keeping the people uninformed about its activities and schedule from inception.

However, in its request to HYPREP, the group demanded a list of the 21 companies the Ogoni cleanup contract was awarded, their job types, specifications, professional and technical skills, as well as details on emergency measures executed on the cleanup in line with the 2011 UNEP report.

Bellonwu urge HYPREP to respond to the request as an agency that claims to be responsible, adding that failure to meet the demands may compel the group to take legal action.

Also speaking, a member of the group, Sebastine Kpalab, who hails from Ogoni, said, it was unfortunate that only few elites from Ogoniland claim that the cleanup exercise was ongoing even when the polluters know that nothing was being done. Kpalap said, “It is sad that a few Ogoni elites are saying that the cleanup is ongoing as they have been receiving alerts in their bank accounts, but they should know that the people are watching and if the elastic expands beyond its limit, it will break.”

Alleging that Ogoni elites and selfish politicians were busy siphoning funds meant for the cleanup project, he cautioned that if they continue to play politics with the cleanup, there may be serious agitations by members of the community. Kpalap however, threatened that civil society organisations (CSOs) may begin protest against HYPREP, the Federal Government over the Ogoni cleanup, adding that the delay has become unbearable.