Social Action has been following closely developments in Ogoniland with the publishing of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on the oil pollution and the progress made by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP). The cleanup recommended in the UNEP report has suffered several setbacks as a result of political lethargy, bureaucratic bottlenecks, opacity in the operation of the council and the lack of political will to put in motion the appropriate mechanisms to bring a lasting solution to the degradation in Ogoniland as a result of the massive oil pollution. Several activities have been carried out by Social Action to ensure the cleanup exercise is carried out the recommendations of UNEP and in such a way that the people are not shortchanged and that the clean-up of Ogoni represents a test case for the clean-up of the Niger Delta and the entire Nigerian environment.
One such activity is the town hall meeting organised in Port Harcourt to bring together stakeholders from the affected communities in Ogoniland, civil society, government agencies including HYPREP. The purpose was to re-engage the process to produce a plan of action that would make concrete input into the procedure under CSOs/communities’ increased participation around what HYPREP was already doing. The town hall meeting which took place in Port Harcourt on July 31, 2019 resulted in the issuance of a communique with a far-reaching plan of action and recommendations. Some of the recommendation and resolutions include
- the collaboration of stakeholders with HYPREP for the agency to succeed in the Ogoni clean-up
- inclusion of the women as critical stakeholders in the cleanup, considering that Ogoni women depend much on the environment (especially land and water) for sustaining livelihoods (and right to life imperatives) across grassroots experiences.
- a periodic review of the clean-up process among stakeholders as transparency and accountability measures towards building public confidence over the HYPREP course of action
The communique also observed that the absence of an implementing plan on the UNEP report has precipitated much of the delay that generated confusion about communities’ expectations and what HYPREP has been doing all along. The communique, therefore recommended that due diligence be observed in the cleanup processes noting that if the pilot Ogoni Clean-up succeeds, then the effort to rehabilitate the Niger delta environmentally, can hopefully succeed.