HYPREP raises alarm over activities of ex-artisanal refiners in Ogoniland
Dr. Marvin Dekilby, the Project Coordinator for the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, for the implementation of the UNEP report for the Ogoniland cleanup, has raised alarm over the activities of illegal artisanal refineries in the area.
Dekilby, who briefed State House correspondents on the activities of the HYPREP in Ogoniland on Friday in Abuja, said the activities of the illegal and artisanal oil refiners had constituted a source of worry to the billion dollars Ogoni cleanup project.
Nigeria’s oil producing states, especially the Ogoniland, are dotted with illegal artisanal oil refineries with attendant economic, environmental and social consequences for the country.
The artisanal refiners, who are mainly drawn from the Ogoni extraction, had in August met with the Minister of State for Environment and Chairman, Governing Council, HYPREP, Ibrahim Jibrin, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, at a one-day consultative meeting organised by the office of the Project Coordinator of the HYPREP.
During the meeting, the artisanal refiners through their spokesman, Domka Humphrey, said they could only stop refining petroleum products illegally if the Federal Government would empower them as well as include them in the remediation process in Ogoniland.
Humphrey said: “Sir, I will tell you our minds, if you don’t empower us, we will not stop refining, because this is what we feed our families and relations with. We don’t have anything doing after government took away the pipeline surveillance from us.
“So, we need to be carried along. Some of us are graduates, many people are still in the bush refining, if you empower us, we will talk to them and they will leave the bush. But where we are not seeing anything, it will be very difficult for us to leave the illegal refining.”
However, Dekilby disclosed that HYPREP had started engaging with the artisanal oil refiners with a view to checking the menace of their activities in the area.
Dekilby said: “We are also in the process of engaging with the ex-artisanal refiners. This is another key aspect of our activities.
“It is important that the artisanal refining activities in the area is stopped because it’s a source of worry in sense of, this is source of possible recontamination after cleanup.
“It will make no sense if we were to spend this amount of money, one billion dollars, to remediate sites only to have these places polluted again.
“So, we needed to engage with the artisanal refiners. The Minister of State for Environment, three weeks ago, on the invitation of HYPREP, came to Port Harcourt and met with a cross section of these people.
“They agreed to key into the project and to stop all such illegal activities.
“They also added that they would like an alternative training for themselves.’’
The Coordinator revealed that the HYPREP would soon be conducting a workshop for the artisanal refiners so as to come up with the most appropriate training programmes for them.
Dekilby disclosed that HYPREP had successfully created eight remediation active sites carrying out demonstration projects across four local government areas of Ogoniland.
He said the project had also trained young Ogoni scientists with background on environmental science to manage the demonstration sites in the area.
He stated that the HYPREP had embarked on massive rehabilitation of water facilities with a view to providing sustainable clean water across the four local government areas of the Ogoniland.
The coordinator lauded the communities in the Ogoniland for taking ownership of the HYPREP.