Since 2019 that the United Nation Environmental Programme, UNEP reported that the benzene content of ground water in Ogoniland was over 900 times the World Health Organization recommendation and that the carcinogenic benzene causes leukemia, HYPREP has failed to implement the recommended emergency measures by UNEP despite series of engagements at different fora.
Consequently, A protest by Eleme women and youth to HYPREP office in Port Harcourt lead by Society for Women and Youths Affairs with the support of Global Greengrant Fund for the implementation of emergency measures recommended BY UNEP held on the 25th June, 2020 was taken to HYPREP office in Port Harcourt to register their grievances about the delayed implementation.
The main objective of the protest was to register community grievances about the long delay of the implementation of the emergency measures and demand for a comprehensive implementation without any further delay.
A total of 50 women and Youths from Eleme, 10 members from the civil society community and 3 persons from the media community participated in the protest. Women and youth participants were drawn from impacted communities in Eleme local government area.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters, the Executive Director of Society for Women and Youths Affairs, Stella Amanie said that since 2019 that the UNEP reported that the benzene content of ground water in Ogoniland was over 900 times the World Health Organization recommendation, the Ogonis are still drinking contaminated water from the hydrocarbon polluted source without any sustained intervention effort. She further stated that Ogonis are dying of strange diseases and cancer and that the UNEP recommended establishment of health registry is yet to be implemented. She said that it is unacceptable for HYPREP to conduct medical outreach where malaria parasites, blood sugar, Retrovirus (HIV), eye and Blood pressure tests that has no correlation with hydrocarbon related diseases were conducted and consider it as medical assessment of Ogonis.
Conclusively, she demanded that the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, HYPREP should develop a gender policy that ensures 30 percent affirmative action on employments, contracts and interventions are set aside for women.
Speaking on behalf of the Eleme Women, Dr Patience Osarojiji from Alode community in Eleme local government area told the HYPREP management that Eleme women are still drinking from hydrocarbon polluted sources and are suffering, dying of cancer, miscarriages and other strange diseases. She also showed her hands where skin cancer has eating up and demanded that emergency should be treated as an emergency as recommended by UNEP or Eleme women will be left with no other option but take a legal action against the HYPRP authority and the federal government.
Also, Comr. TomBari Dumka, spokesman of the indigenous NGOs and Civil Society Network, said that it is disappointing and unaccepted that HYPREP is yet to provide portable running water for Ogoni communities. He further said that a period of Covid-19 pandemic that washing of hands under running water is recommended and there is no running water portends serious health dangers for the Ogoni communities and called on the authority to as a matter of urgency implement the recommended emergency measures.
The protesters bared banners and placards with different inscription such as;” Four years after the commencement of Ogoni clean-up exercise, Ogoni women still drink from polluted water, Ogoni women are suffering and dying of strange diseases, “ HYPREP, treat emergency as emergency,” Resumption of oil exploration in Ogoni is a call for anarchy,” etc.
Addressing the protesting women and youth, Mr Isa Musa thanked the protesters for their peaceful and nonviolence protest to register their grievances. Speaking further, he told them of HYPREP’s commitment to implement the emergency measures and that as a matter of fact, the intervention agency in partnership with the ministry of water resources have gone round Ogoni communities and have been able to collect polluted water samples to do an assessment of abandoned water facilities across the four-local government in Ogoni. He said that procurement processes are on to give water to Ogoni communities soon.
On the establishment of center of excellence, Isa said that HYPREP is in discussion with Ken Saro Wiwa Polytechnic, Bori to see how they can partner together and start the training centre.
He finally thanked and assured the protesting women and youth that their demands will be looked into.
Also, the women in charge of the livelihood program at HYPREP, Mrs Josephine Nziidee said that HYPREP is in partnership with UNITAR and other organizations to train the first 1,200 set of Ogoni women on fishery, poultry, and other agro-based trainings to be held soon at Songhai Farm. She said that women will be put into cooperative where they will be linked to get soft loan from Bank of Industry and bank of Agriculture respectively.
Speaking further, she said that the idea to start with small number of 1,200 beneficiaries is to train trainers who will as well train others to ensure sustainability.
Conclusively, the protesting women and youth made the following demands:
- Provide portable drinking water for Ogoni people without delay
- Conduct a proper health impact study in the impacted communities of Ogoni to ascertain whether there is a link between some disease pattern and oil pollution in the communities
- Include 30 percent women and youth in any planning and decision-making process during implementation of the project in order to encourage ownership.
- Include a public participation process, aimed to reach the communities most impacted by pollution.
- Strengthen and increase existing partnership for strategic participation.
Society for Women and Youths Affairs reaffirmed her commitment to work for communities to ensure that there is an urgent and a successful implementation of emergency measures recommended in the UNEP report.