A few days ago, I listened to the HYPREP Coordinator Dr Marvin Dekil talking about the Ogoni clean-up and the benefits to the Ogoni community on ChannelsTV.
I was a bit worried and I would like to request Dr. Dekil to give us some more information. My greatest fear has always been that the one billion Dollars Ogoni Trust Fund will fall victim to the Nigerian factor. The money will be spent in the name of Ogoni with no lasting impact on the lives of the ogoni people.
That was why we came up with the idea of converting the Centre of Excellence to a university that becomes a lasting legacy from the Trust Fund that will endure the passage of time.
Dr Dekil’s explanation that each contract provides a minimum of thirty five local job opportunities raises more questions than answers. What is the nature of these thirty five jobs Dr Dekil talked about? Are they permanent placements? What level of employees are we talking about, and how long will they last?
While we must thank HYPREP for these opportunities, I think the most important question for the Ogoni people should be who are these contractors and what number of these contractors are local? If the contracts require skills that are not locally available what deliberate policy is HYPREP adopting to grow local participation and expand lasting opportunities for the Ogoni people and businesses in the land?
To argue the way Dr. Dekil did that HYPREP has no obligation to develop Ogoni because the Developement of Ogoni is not part of its core mandate is to accept the unacceptable.
It is unacceptable that HYPREP can superintendent the disbursement of one billion Dollars named OGONI TRUST FUND and it will not matter if the Ogoni people benefit from it , as long as there is remediation of impacted sites, because that is not the purpose of HYPREP. I reject that argument however sound the logic behind it.
I am genuinely worried by that because it means that we are prepared to accept the unacceptable.
Ogoni, because of its unique history in the Niger Delta is the first oil producing and polluted community to benefit from this once in a life time opportunity, there must be lasting impact for the Ogoni people.
If the HYPREP mandate does not provide for that then we must find creative ways to make it happen and we have the opportunity to do so now.
President BUHARI has gone over and beyond the call of duty to make HYPREP real and ensure that it is funded, and our input and participation in the fund is respected. If we fail to serve our people the best we can with this opportunity, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.
Finally we must also remember that poverty and insecurity are the underlying foundation behind the continued pollution of Ogoni land. In trying to clean-up without addressing these critical issues, HYPREP will merely be wasting the clean- up funds because if illegal bunkering activities continue in the area during or after the clean up we will be back to square one, (I.e.stuck in a polluted environment full of poverty and human suffering).
We must all be aware that If we end up in the same spot after spending a billion Dollars history will be most unkind to us.
I had stated from the beginning that I will not get involved in HYPREP so I can see clearly what goes on. I think the Ogoni people deserve a clearer explanation than the one we are getting thus far.
Senator Magnus Abe, is a lawyer and the immediate past Senator for Rivers South East Senatorial Zone in the Nigerian Senate, National Assembly.