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Ogoni Struggle Is Just: HYPREP Is Failing As Suspected

By Ben Ikari
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My Dearest Ogoni Brothers, Sisters and friends of our great and just struggle for self-determination, I bring you warm greetings in the name of Gbene Ogoni.

As an Ogoni man, it is a privilege to be alive this moment in history witnessing and recording happenings surrounding Ogoni, especially its movement, MOSOP that struggles for the people's survival. It therefore pleases me to note that the Ogoni struggle through which we are peacefully and nonviolently demanding our economic, political and sociocultural rights hence autonomy alongside environmental justice lives on.

This is despite the many challenges, especially the oil and politically motivated crisis and violence imposed on Ogoni by Nigeria. Irrespective of Nigeria and $hell's nonstop repression, brazen lies and lack of development, and the immoral pressure on Ogonis to resume oil production in the midst of 50 years pollution and degradation they recklessly caused while making billions of dollars, but not honest nor serious about cleaning, Ogoni and MOSOP is still marching on.

The simple reason Ogoni and MOSOP continue to wax on and will not cease is because the Ogoni struggle is a just, peaceful, honorable and moral one. It is an honest and community orienting, educational, enlightenment and liberation movement which every struggling and oppressed individual, groups, nations or entities can relate. Although it is twenty six years into the Ogoni struggle so people will expect some positive steps taken by any honest and conscientious government that cares to redressing the oppression of the past, it is not a surprise that Nigeria and its successive regimes have not deemed it fit to respect, listen to, and resolve any of the demands presented by Ogonis. These demands presented in 1990 to Nigeria are contained in the Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR).

In summary, these demands are political and economic autonomy; the development, practice and protection of sociocultural rights; environmental protection and justice; the right to develop, speak and teach Ogoni languages and dialects in Ogoni territory against the imposition of other Nigerian languages on Ogoni; adequate and direct representation in all national institutions in the country.

I am deeply sadden waking up every day to realize that none of these demands have been met. Not even clean pipe-borne water, electricity and working hospitals, good roads and schools are granted Ogonis. The lack of development, backwardness and negativity associated with Ogoni is massive. This predicament is courtesy the Nigerian government, $hell Oil and other oil firms which have exploited, dangerously polluted and benefited from Ogoni.

Ironically and shamefully, Ogonis are still their landlords whose land they have ruined. Nigeria and $hell, other Euro-American oil firms made hundreds of billions of dollars from Ogoni and left the place desolate. They harassed, attempted to intimidate, unlawfully and arbitrarily arrested and detained then killed Ogonis when the people complained about pollution; requested adequate compensation, and demanded that their natural/human rights should be respected.

As mentioned earlier, instead of treating Ogonis with dignity and respect then grant the people's demands which are just; will conduce to peace, and does not deny the rights of anyone or group; will not deny the Nigerian government nor $hell any just claim, or any other entity, every year the government, $hell and other oil extractive firms wickedly and shamelessly continue to pressure, dividing and reportedly bribing some Ogonis who made themselves small and weak, for the resumption of oil production in a chemically charged and degraded environment . The UNEP report and recommendations, which states among others that all oil production should stop if projected cleanup and restoration will succeed did not deter these evil entities.

This brings me to the concerns I expressed when Mr. Legborsi Pyagbara's-led MOSOP and Ogoni Solidarity Forum and others accepted the Goodluck Jonathan's created Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP, now said to be reformed) over UNEP recommended Ogoni Environmental Restoration Authority (OERA). The views expressed have proven to be factual thus standing the test of time. Because of this unreasonable and faulty acceptance of HYPREP which threw the UNEP recommended localization of the Ogoni cleanup project into a national GREED and INFLUENCE, MANIPULATION struggle, more than four years since Buhari took office nothing tangible has been accomplished by HYPREP.

Recall that UNEP projected that Ogoni cleanup and restoration would take between 25 to 30 years. If Nigeria and Buhari understands the slightest of what they are doing so honest and not lying, when will the assessment and cleanup in other oil communities start; will they wait 25 to 30 years when Ogoni project is completed, if 8 years after UNEP report nothing remarkable but media talks and lies can be seen?

Of course, HYPREP is not independent of the government and oil companies, which are the criminal polluters and environmental terrorists. In addition, one of the National Project Coordinator of HYPREP's work is to protect his employers which is the Nigerian government and $hell, et al. In this case, the National Coordinator of HYPREP is an Ogoni. He has genuine love for Ogoni and would work hard for its best interest if not in the kind of country he is, that will make it easy for him to be manipulated, influenced and threatened by the powers that be when they deem necessary. His name is Dr. Marvin Dekil whose comments in a video titled: Ogoni Cleanup Conference, published on August 13, 2018 shows has no power to plan and implement any element of the project without authorization from the Governing Council and Board of Trustees of HYPREP.

Members of this management entities of HYPREP are largely non-Ogonis. They include $hell, NNPC, other oil majors and the Ministries of Petroleum Resources, and Environment representatives whose sole objective is to protect the interest of the oil companies and the Nigerian government, respectively. The representatives from other oil producing communities in the management team are also interested in the rights and benefits of their communities. Civil society groups have representatives in HYPREP management team as well. In Nigeria, self and ethnic interest supersede ethical and professional behavior. Where few with upright and professional attitude exist as exception to the norm, they may not form a force to change anything in a dictatorial setting that is Nigeria. This is a country where human emergencies and suffering, public opinion hardly move a pin toward change.

In contrast to HYPREP, Ogoni Environmental Restoration Authority should have localized the Ogoni project as recommended by UNEP. There are thousands of projects in several communities of Nigeria which are worth billions of dollars, and they are localized as they should be. Because of suppression or repression------signs of unseriousness and dishonesty, the Nigerian government ensured that the Ogoni project take a different turn. It is thus made a national (political) project, which attracts numerous interests and opens the way for bad bureaucracy, manipulation and delays, misappropriation and corruption.

If the Nigerian government did not impose HYPREP on Ogoni to the point that MOSOP leadership and others felt they had no option but to accept it (when there were options), and Ogoni Environmental Restoration Authority had taken root as the management and operational agency or authority as designed, the Ogoni cleanup project should have avoided all such interest groups, fault-lines and negativity. MOSOP should also have been able to reject $hell and NNPC, Ministry of Petroleum Resources and other polluters (in particular) as management members of HYPREP. It is common sense that a criminal can not be the judge in his or her own case. And it is obvious that the localization of the Ogoni project will not have been perfect but it should have been different. The management would (will) have been more open and honest; it will have been serious to implementing UNEP recommendations, and anxious about becoming successful.

Interestingly, UNEP experts who are experienced in this field were clear, and specific in their recommendations. In the report the UNEP experts rightly recommended that Ogoni cleanup project should be specifically for Ogoni given the scope of assessment conducted in Ogoni alone, as they were commissioned to do. They also said all money raised for the Ogoni project should be used for the cleanup and capacity building, employment-----restoration of livelihoods in Ogoni alone. Whatever experience and success achieved in Ogoni as a result of the cleanup and restoration work will help guide subsequent cleanup programs in other communities in Nigeria, especially Niger delta's oil producing communities, the United Nations agency wrote.

If UNEP is independent and bold, if it has integrity, it can not just get along with whatever the Nigerian government and $hell tells her to do, to assisting in the success of the project. If its valued recommendations the government agreed to respect and judiciously implement are ignored or rejected and such rejection will negatively affect the agency's report and recommendations why not protest and reject what appears to be current UNEP compromising stance despite its seemingly powerless status

It is shameful that four years under Jonathan and over four years under Buhari, only $180 million have been raised out of recommended $1 billion proposed for the first five years. This money is, of course raised by the oil majors and the Nigerian government; they control hundreds of billions of dollars oil money and other assets. The unwillingness to provide adequate funding for this project attest to their not being forthright nor serious about implementation. The horrible inhumane treatment given Ogonis becomes palpable and troubling when considering that in more than four years of Buhari's regime none of the emergency items recommended has been accomplished.

Not even clean pipe-borne water, active health registry and effective hospital facilities have been implemented. The exception is HYPREP's reported twenty thousand Ogonis who got health evaluation and about 400 surgical work it claimed to have done, but did not say what health conditions resulted in the surgery. The recommended Center for Excellence and Soil Management facility, which will engender and sustain capacity building have been ignored or rejected by Buhari, $hell and co. Instead they made mockery of themselves when recently they send the Environment Ministry, HYPREP and other government officials to the UK for the same purpose this Soil Management Facility and center were designed. They are also reported to have trained or will train Ogonis and non-Ogonis selected in Switzerland instead of building these facilities in Ogoni to facilitate the project and also serve the need of other communities when their environment will be assessed for pollution and levels of contamination, and cleanup will commence.

With this approach it is evident the Nigerian government and $hell are lying to themselves. They are not and can not lie to Ogonis nor the world regarding their interest in developing capacities of Ogonis and restoring their livelihoods. The world can see their emptiness. Gross incompetence and wickedness is what they have shown the world. Despite the talks about processes and the mobilization of contractors to pollution impacted sites by HYPREP, it seems Buhari and Nigeria, $hell oil and other oil firms are mostly interested in the resumption of oil production in Ogoni and not the implementation of UNEP recommendations for the people.

HYPREP, which is supposed to follow the UNEP recommendation that forbid oil resumption if cleanup will succeed is not advising or standing up with the bitter truth to its sponsors. It is not telling $hell and NNPC/NPDC, Robo Michael and Belema Oil, others which continue to disturb the peace in Ogoni, that their interest in resuming oil production is in contravention of UNEP recommendation. These companies have continued under Buhari government's protection to push for such unholy activity and causing crisis, which they hope could degenerate to justifying military invasion and occupation then pave way for forceful resumption of oil production.

The reason HYPREP is mute on this dangerous oil resumption push is because it is not independent. Without UNEP guide it also does not understand what it is doing or supposed to do. The manipulated agency recently provided the weakest defense in response to Premium Times report, which states that the contractors the Buhari government awarded the Ogoni cleanup contracts are unqualified. HYPREP, however, claimed it awarded said contracts to qualified firms. It cited the contracting firms as having duly registered businesses as provided by law; and that their qualifications are in consonance with the "local content" program of the government. Without citing traceable and outstanding work experience and performance of most of the firms the agency also bragged that the firms provided memorandum of understanding proving partnership with foreign companies which have the technical know-how and financial capacity.

As synonymous with Nigeria, this highly scientific and technical work has been granted based largely on a so-called local content policy, which means promoting and supporting local businesses. I am not sure if the policy also say it does not matter if companies are qualified or not. These cleanup contracts are also given due to the firms' business links with foreign companies, and that they are duly registered, not minding whether they were registered two years ago and have not conducted any oil-based pollution cleanup and restoration. It is only in Nigeria where road construction and electricity contracts among others are predominantly given to individuals who have no road grading machines and electrical tools, that this can happen. The results of such unhealthy contract award to those without simple tools required have always been despicable. And huge or all contract money having been paid as mobilization ends up being embezzled and no or little work done. That is why there are numerous abandoned contracts and lack of development all over the country.

Consequently, Ogonis must be wiser and stay alert with both eyes and ears open. It is either Nigeria will do the right thing and deliver the best result available and acceptable by international standard or not do it at all. Ogonis deserves the best! This means unity and information gathering and sharing, collaboration, lasting communal peace and harmony is needed the most. Honesty and the strongest commitment, love while resisting and exposing Nigeria and $hell's fraudulent acts is essential. There is need to continue to negotiate the best alternatives with Nigeria and $hell if they are willing. Mobilizing and organizing, speaking truth to power with courage and boldness is needed now than ever if Ogonis will triumph in this just struggle for self-determination also known as self rule or government, in form of a state for Ogonis in Nigeria.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Ben Ikari and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."