By Edu Abade
The Hydrocarbons Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and a group of environmental activists, the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), have expressed their readiness to collaborate in ensuring a sustainable ecosystem in the Niger Delta region and entire country.
The agencies disclosed their resolve for collaboration on environmental sustainability through effective cleanup of Ogoni and the Niger Delta during a visit of members of HOMEF, led by its Director, Nnimmo Bassey, to their offices in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Bassey pointed out that the Niger Delta was home to one of the largest mangrove forests in the world and doubles as the region with the largest mangrove forest in Africa.
He said the region is generally rich in biodiversity. Unfortunately, oil exploration and exploitation have had, and still have, huge impacts on these ecosystems in the most devastating manner. Among the drivers of these impacts are oil pollution and gas flaring, which have not only destroyed the environment, but also had grave impacts on the health, livelihoods and wellbeing of communities.
The renowned environmentalist also disclosed that HOMEF embarked on the advocacy visits to government agencies in Rivers State to bring the nagging issues to the remembrance of stakeholders, especially the organs of government and policy makers.
Bassey further noted that it was important and timely to meet with government agencies at this time of political transition and to explore opportunities and ways of strengthening the push for a pollution-free and healthy environment for communities in the Niger Delta and Nigeria at large.
During a visit to HYPREP, Bassey, who congratulated the new Coordinator of HYPREP, Prof. Nenibarini Zabbey, pointed out that HOMEF has always believed that the successful cleanup of Ogoni land will trigger the cleanup of other polluted sites in the Niger Delta region.
“There are a lot of expectations on HYPREP and there must be transparency and accountability and we request that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and other critical stakeholders should have access to the work sites and project milestones for the purpose of regular evaluation and assessment of work being done,” he said.
Responding, Prof. Zabbey expressed gratitude for the support and pledged to hit the ground running with a human-centric approach, saying: “Things are beginning to take shape and in the coming weeks, there will be a lot of activities because the Federal Government has awarded 39 plots for remediation, 34 shoreline cleanup contracts, and nine mangrove regeneration contracts.
“We are also contracting an ecologist, who will train the youths on how to set up mangrove nurseries. We are not only doing the training, but there will also be grants to start up their mangrove nurseries, as a means of enhancing livelihoods.”
He further stated that his approach will be a human-centric cleanup and restoration approach which will be participatory, adding: “We are going to have 60 percent men and 40 percent women participation in some of the cleanup processes. We are strengthening our monitoring and evaluation abilities in collaboration with the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).
In a related development, HOMEF also visited the Rivers State Ministry of Environment where they were received by the Head of Department, Planning, Research and Statistics, Dr. Ken Okoro, who said: “We are happy to work with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that are focused on environmental management. The ministry will continue to support organizations like HOMEF to address the environmental issues affecting the state.”
The group also visited the Coordinator, Eastern Zone (CEZ) of NIMASA, Mr. Yusuf Barde and officer in charge of the Marine Environment Management Department (MEMD), Mrs. Bapakaye Youngharry, who received the HOMEF team and made a presentation on the agency’s responsibilities in the nation’s maritime sector.
Barde noted that the management of NIMASA was open for exchanges and collaborations with CSOs to ensure improvement in the quality of their work and deliver on their mandate.
HOMEF used the opportunity to present some of the organisation’s publications including Eco-Instigator, Politics of Turbulent Waters and a Policy Brief on Socio-ecological Justice in the Niger Delta and Nigeria at large.