“What We Have Done So Far on UNEP Report on Ogoni” …HYPREP Coordinator, Marvin Dekil Explains to IFN TV

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“What We Have Done So Far on UNEP Report on Ogoni”
HYPREP Coordinator, Marvin Dekil Explains to IFN TV

Dr Marvin Dekil is the Project Coordinator of Nigeria’s Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project— HYPREP responsible for the implementation of the UNEP Report on Ogoniland. Appointed in August 2016, Dr. Marvin’s office has faced serious criticisms on the delay in the actual take off of the Clean-up of Ogoniland since its official launch in June 2016 by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

IFN TV’s Ndume Green was in the Rivers State capital, Port-Harcourt to speak to him.

IFN TV: Tell us what is actually happening? What is holding the implementation of the UNEP Report of Ogoni? 

Marvin Dekil: When you say something is holding, it would appear that work is not ongoing but that is different from the situation, nothing is holding because work has started. The UNEP report is very specific on the stages for the

implementation of the report and one of the first steps is that of emergency majors, which has to do with provision of portable water in the communities.

One of the first thing that I did coming in as the Project Coordinator was to set up a team in each of the four Local Governments for a quick assessment of the water facilities functional or non-functional across the four LGA’s and as we speak, we do have a report from all the communities where there are water facilities. We did this in collaboration or consultation with the providers of these facilities in the communities. These are basically the Rivers State Ministry of Water Resources, Shell Petroleum Development Cooperation, NDDC, Niger Delta Basin Development Authority and we had the active participation and collaboration in producing this database and this report. So as we speak, I can tell you where there is water facility and whether it is non-functional. Unfortunately, more than 90% of the facilities in the communities are all non-functional.

Now for us to deal with emergency majors, means we need to activate these facilities. So the next step was to have a quick assessment of the facilities and have a cost to it so we can go on to provide water in the community. Couple of weeks back, about a month now, we commenced the procurement process for that, and we advertised for water consultants and engineers, so they could come in and do that, provide us with estimates and way beyond that too for a quick fix of the water facilities.

Now for us to deal with emergency majors, means we need to activate these facilities. So the next step was to have a quick assessment of the facilities and have a cost to it so we can go on to provide water in the community. Couple of weeks back, about a month now, we commenced the procurement process for that, and we advertised for water consultants and engineers, so they could come in and do that, provide us with estimates and way beyond that too for a quick fix of the water facilities.

But it’s important to know that we are not just after getting water to flow from these pumps or these facilities. We are interested in getting the right quality of water. So the water that meets WHO water standard. So in addition to getting the water supply flow in these communities, we are also going to be testing the water to make sure that it meets the quality before we can reticulate and distribute to the communities. That is the short term plan for water. But there is a long term plan for water which is the permanent option for water facilities in the communities and this has to do with designing an integrated water system which would also capture existing water facilities in addition to expanding it and reticulating it to capture more areas. For that to happen too we advertised for water engineers and consultants and the procurement process for that has commenced.

So listening to me now, you will agree with me now that so much is happening. One, I want to explain that project coordination office which is this office— responsible for the day to day implementation of the report, this office only came live in April this year, we are in August and within the last three months, we’ve done this bits. But before we went into doing this, talking about the water facilities, we did and we are doing sensitization of the communities. So we’ve been to Gokana Local Government , we’ve been to Bodo to sensitize the leadership there, the women, the youths, and all the people there for them to understand the needs and the deliverables of the project and get their buy-in.

We did the same in K-dere, we did the same in Kpor and of cause this was also with the active participation of the divisional police officer there as well as the military command that is in control of that area. They all went with us and we had a successful sensitization in the three communities. We moved on to Eleme, we did the sensitization at Ogale, we did it at Ebubu, and we did that also in Tai, at KoroKoro and at Ueken. We already have a demonstration site in Kwaawa, this was a site that was launched by the formal minister of Environment Mrs. Amina Mohammed before she proceeded to the United Nations as the Deputy Secretary General. Kwaawa community has severally been consulted by the minister of state for environment, by myself in the team of the MOSOP President, on the need for them to support and participate in the project, the demonstration project there.

Going forward now, we are designing a more elaborate sensitization plan that will capture more communities in Khana local Government, in Tai Local Government, in Gokhana Local Government as well as Eleme. Now, we also within these period, received application from several companies, companies who are interested in demonstrating technology for remediation. We sat with them, we received their presentation, at the end of the presentation, for the companies that gave us promising, came up with technology  that we consider worth the while, we have allocated them sites across the four LGA now, where we have now opened demonstration sites including the additional one that was opened in Kwaawa.

So these companies as we speak are on site, there are active demonstration sites where companies are demonstrating their capacity and technology for remediation, this is all ongoing.

We also advertised for health impact experts. If you read the UNEP report, part of the emergency majors is the health impact study that needs to be carried out. What is the health impact studies supposed to achieve? It is intended to achieve or establish a link between diseases in our communities and link it to oil pollution. Now that study we have advertised for experts to that. In addition, we advertised also for environmental consultants. The environmental consultants are supposed to be doing something that will help us update the UNEP report. You will recall that this report was submitted in 2011 and this is 2017. So the gap between when it was submitted and now that we intend to implement, that need to be bridged and how do we bridge that, we need to capture the current contamination profile of the site and that is one of the things we are expecting to achieve with the environmental consultants.

I was in Geneva recently and I met with the United Nations Environment Program team, now referred to as UN environment. We sat down, we looked at the report. The purpose of the meeting was to know from them, exactly the details and the specifics in their recommendation and part of it was to understand how best we could work with them (UNEP) as well as the wider United Nations system. At the end of the meeting, it was concluded the we need to bring in more of the United Nation organs into the project. For example; the health impart study, we need to bring in the World Health Organization (WHO) to endorse, approve the procedures and the processes that we are using to make sure that they are compliant with the UN standard. We are still going to be using UNEP to play the same role for our environmental studies. We are using another organ of the United Nations called UNUPS which is the project management arm of the United Nations to look at the overall framework and work plan for the project and look at the individual work packages involved, so that whatever we do as a project, enjoys the confident and the trust of all the stakeholders: the Ogoni people, the government, the IOC’s working as a team. At this point, I will want to add just do a bit of explanation on the way HYPREP is structured. HYPREP is structured across three main institutions.

One is the Board of Trustees whose duty is to collect the money from the IOC’s and also to manage the funds and disburse as needed. The second one is the Governing Council, whose role is to approve all activities as initiated by the project coordination office; and the project coordination office where I am head which is responsible for the day to day implementation of the report.

Now, the project management office was the last that came on and like I said this only started in April this year. So if within April to this point where we are in August, we’ve listed these activities, I will think that this is an indication of the momentum and the part that the project is following. I also have to add that the project we are doing is a highly technical one, is a scientific process, it requires a lot of planning, there are particular institution of infrastructure that needs to be in place, before we can hit the field as expected. So the planning, the things we can put in place before we can hit the field is quite a lot, is also quite technical.

IFN TV: Like what and what?

Marvin Dekil: For you to have a professional environmental remediation, the first thing you need to do is, you need to capture the extent, the vertical, horizontal delineation of the contaminant in that site. That is referred to technically as characterization and what does that mean? It means you need to be able to identify the constituent pollutant in that site. That requires you to further go get some more sampling, analyzing those samples and then getting the result to identify the particular pollutants. Now you don’t stop at that, you go on to design, and develop specific remediation methods and technology for each of these contaminants. You also want to look at the geology, the specific geology of the area. You want to look at the soil profile; you want to look at so many other environmental factors that could pose a risk to the people and to the use of the land. Now all these am explaining to you are specific task that requires expertise that may not just find around. You may need time to develop, and may need a lot of planning to access.

It’s highly scientific, the process. Now in terms of project management, you need to have you fusibility, you need to do a lot of further study to ensure that whatever activity you are carrying out, do not pose further threat to the environment by the time you finish. So these are the things that we are doing now. So that is the desk work.

IFN TV: I thought that all these things that you are talking about have all been captured by the original report from UNEP?

Marvin Dekil: Certainly not. You know, in the environmental assessment, you have them in tiers. There is a tier one, it’s a question, this is how it goes; first question: Is there contamination, is there pollution in an environment? That is a tier one question, ok. So what UNEP did answered that question; is there contamination? As a result of the allegations and the claims of Ogoni people that their land was contaminated, the question was; can we, could we independently verify where the place is contaminated? And so is the place contaminated? UNEP came, they did that assessment (a tier one) and they answered yes, first tick. Now if there is contamination in the area, the next question is; to what extent is it contaminated? How deep, what are the contaminants? That’s a tier two, that’s what we are about to do now. Now when we identify the extent of the contamination, you now want to proffer, specific remediation methods for each of these contaminants. And when you do that, you then come up with a comprehensive remediation plan. So all the stages are the things that make up a professional and a thorough job.

Unfortunately for us here, we haven’t been following through these processes, we haven’t been following through these procedures in doing our remediation and that’s exactly why we are in the mess we are. So should we go back to what you know, what we know here to be a remediation, where we identify a spill site, the moment we spot one, we come up with bulldozers and whatever it is, and go there to excavate and then end up causing more harm to the environment. For example; If you were going to remediate a site without understanding the geology of the area, the nature of the soil structure, what you could be doing, you could be damaging some of the clay that helps to protect the ground water and a lot of that has been happening because once you puncture that, you allow for porous soil in porous environment, you allow for contamination of ground water and we are seeing a lot of those. Lot’s n lots of those has been happening.

So as a project, what I can tell you is that we are about to do this in the best way possible we know to be around the world. Ok, that is what we are bringing to the table. So it is not what we know, and you know when the country rep of the United Nations came to this office, we had the opportunity of taking him to the field. He looked at what we were doing, I had a long chat with him, and what did he say, his response was that everything was on track, this project is on track and appealed for patience and understanding because of the very nature of this project. It’s not such that you could just wish it would happen, you have to plan and put in the building blocks for it to happen. So now we are at the point where the planning phases, the desk work is commencing. As I speak to you, last week we opened a new demonstration site in Korokoro. Now for us to do even a demonstration site, we go back to take baseline information, current baseline information, which means we go there to take samples, analyze and know the current indicator parameter rhythms. Now that is the rhytm which we share with the companies and then tell them, start your technology and at specified interval, we go back to that site and do further sampling .

So the difference or the agreement between the first sample we took, that’s the pre-trial sample, and the post-trial sample will tell us whether a technology has worked. All of that are scientific activities and you can’t wish them any differently, you have to take your time to get it done and done properly. 

IFN TV: Sounds quite more technical than we thought I guess?

Marvin Dekil: I would appreciate if you do have the time to come with us one of these days, either for one of out sensitization visits or to any of our demonstration site where you could see things for yourself. There is so much we’ve been doing within this short period of time. I also undertand the worry or the concern of the people that this was a project, report that was submitted 2011 and we are only coming to a point where there is a project coordination office in April this year. But one thing you have to understand and agree is that the government this time is committed. There have been lapses but we have to take responsibility of the lapses collectively as a nation. It’s not what you are going to ascribe or put the blame at anybody’s door step because the failure of government to do this between then and this point is something we should all take responsibility for as a nation. And for the Ogoni people, this is an appeal for them to be patient because we are on track and we are on cause getting the job done and done professionally.

IFN TV: There have been rumours flying around of bureaucratic bottlenecks with the project especially with regards to proper funding, what is your take on this? How much have you received so far?

Marvin Dekil: Well, you know HYPREP is set up as part, is a project under the ministry of environment. The ministry of environment is part of the general civil service and the government structure in Nigeria. So it’s difficult to isolate the workings of the project from that of the government. Like for example, I told you we advertised for environmental engineers and consultants and currently, we are going through the procurement process. So the government procurement act applies to the project. So it is something that is desirable that if we could wave it, it could give us some momentum but currently, that is what we are, we are working according to the rules of the government of Nigeria.

Again, funding for the office is different from the funding for the project but currently, you can look around the office, it’s equipped right, but basically what is happening is that the IOC’s provide funds to the board of trustees. I earlier told you that there are different functions and different institution within HYPREP. One is the board of trustees, so everything that has to do with funding as to this project, the board of trustees is handling that. Now what I can tell you about fund is that I develop a work plan and I submit the work plan to the Governing Council. Once that work plan is approved, the BOT disburses that amount. We have fund for start up and we did send a budget, a work plan to the Governing Council. That work plan was approved at the last governing council meeting and the fund for that, some has been disbursed to us. We are still discussing with the Governing Council on how to get the other bit. So, this is an ongoing process but the basically is that funds that is meant for the project can only come through/can only be used with approval of the governing council and that’s only when the board of trustees can release the fund. So the initial $10 million that was released, is intact less what we have so far access which as at today is about Two Hundred and Seventy Seven Million Naira not dollars. Out of the $10million as an office, we have received Two Hundred and Seventy Seven Million Naira, out of that about a hundred, close to 96, about a hundred million is for debt on the previous HYPREP office. So that’s currently where we are.

IFN TV: Did the current HYPRED headed by you inherit all the liabilities of the previous HYPREP under the Jonathan regime?

Marvin Dekil: Part of what the government did in starting up this round of HYPREP was to look at the liabilities of the previous HYPREP which is huge. If you listen to my minister, he had an interview recently, and he was talking about Six Point Something Billion Naira as dept incurred during that period. This something that as we speak, there is a six ministry committee that is been set up, that is looking at the liability and proffering solution on how to deal with this and to a large extent, the current HYPREP is isolated from this liabilities so the government can continue to deal with it and this HYPREP can continue to work as we are doing. So all the liabilities of that previous HYPREP is currently being dealt with by a six ministry committee commissioned by the Federal Executive Council.

IFN TV: What should the Ogoni people who have waited so long for this project to kick off expect from now on?

Marvin Dekil: What the Ogoni people should expect from the project office, from the project coordinator, from myself is a very thorough and professional implementation of the report, including emergency majors. Ogoni people should expect from us, active participation and consultation all the way through and that’s why at the very beginning the first things we did was to go into the communities to sensitize and consult with them. That process is ongoing and that process will continue for the entire duration of this project.

IFN TV: Has there been issues bordering on security in the area hampering your progress in any way?

Marvin Dekil: Well, I think the situation in Ogoni is the same as across the country, so you couldn’t isolate the situation in Ogoni and think it’s any different. So the way insecurity affect anything elsewhere is the way but to me and to as a project, what we have received from the Ogoni people is a huge reception. They have given us maximum cooperation and we continue to enjoy that as we go into the communities.

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