By Emmanuel Bagudu
The Coalition of Ogoni Women Development Initiative have acccused the Hydrocarbon Remediation Project (HYPREP) of Politicising the cleanup exercise in Ogoniland. The women also alleged that there is no effective communication strategies with community stakeholders which leads to violent clashes in the cleanup process.
Speaking on Tuesday, in a virtual Press Conference organised by the Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre, Patience Osaroejiji a representative of the women, without mincing words reeled out the major challenges faced by women and youths in Ogoni. “….Looking at the Gazette that established HYPREP, it is clear that peace building is one of HYPREP’s mandates. In many Ogoni communities, particularly the impacted ones, unemployment is widespread and when youths are idle, there is room for negative tendencies. For example, many youths involved in artisanal refining activities form gangs in their camps, which gradually grow into cult groups that cause havoc of violent crimes in communities. In another scenario, when HYPREP makes promises about training of 200 youths, once this expectation does not come to fruition, it incites violence in communities….” Mrs Osaerojiji said
She added that “Clean and potable water is a key problem in Ogoniland. Community stakeholders are therefore unable to practice simple handwashing hygiene as there are no clean potable water to engage this practice. Compliance to COVID-19 protocols is there a challenge in Ogoni communities. The situation is even worse for women given their household chores as they expend additional energies and time, sourcing for water to undertaken their domestic duties. This extra burden affects the girl child in diverse means including access to education. The success of HYPREP to provide potable drinking would mean extra money in the household, concentration at school, and unhindered access to clean water, by households in impacted communities….”
“It would interest you to know that many community groups have provided support to HYPREP. Women have provided community level activities including tree planting, advocacy and sensitization, capacity building, and stakeholder engagements in their bid to support the remediation process. For example, Kebetkache led Ogoni women in a tree planting exercise to mark the world environment day in Ogoniland. This effort is key to ensuring clean air and climate resilience in Ogoni communities”
“Jobs currently created by HYPREP for a critical mass of youths are casual in nature. Workers on working on most lots do not have employment or contract letters, even as they do not have any condition of service beyond the 5000 Naira daily pay.This is problematic…..”
The women after reeling the challenges, made some recommendations and hopes that stakeholders in the advocacy for the implementation of the cleanup exercise will help amplify and take there message to appropriate authorities to help end the hardships faced by Ogoni people especially Women and Youths.
The women in their recommendations wants HYPREP to;
“Develop effective communication strategies with community stakeholder inputs for a feedback communication approach
• Initiate peace building mechanisms in Ogoniland in line with your mandate. Address issues of artisanal refining and livelihood by creating sustainable alternate livelihood ventures to reduce idleness and negative tendencies in communities
• Provide clean water in oil impacted communities to reduce the impact of COVID-19. COVID-19 sensitization will have no impact if local communities do not have water for handwashing
• Open your doors to community and other stakeholders to support the project.
• Build the Centre of Exceelence and integrated contaminated soil management centre for sustainable jobs in Ogoni
• Prevent politics. Ensure professionalism and give priority to competence during decision making in the remediation process
• Ensure you consider community expectation in goal setting. Develop mechanisms to engage where expectations derail
• Community stakeholders are assets to the remediation project. Integrate their views in your planning and decision-making”