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Ogoni Clean-Up: HYPREP Engages Illegal Oil Refiners

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The Hydrocarbon Pollution and Remediation Project (HYPREP), says it has engaged illegal oil refiners in Ogoni communities of Khana, Gokana, Tai and Eleme local government areas of Rivers State in the clean-up process.
The Project Coordinator, HYPREP, Dr. Marvin Dekil, made the disclosure in Port Harcourt, while giving an account of the activities of the team over the last 100 days in office.
Dekil noted that artisanal refiners in the area have been engaged in the clean-up so that they will not continue to impact negatively on the area while the clean-up was going on.
The coordinator noted that when HYPREP met the illegal refiners, they (illegal refiners) promised to discontinue activities that are harmful to the environment.
He said that several of the youth, who illegally refined oil, have been engaged and retrained by the body to ensure that they were useful in the clean-up process.
“We met with the leadership of Ogoni ex-artisanal refiners. We had enlightened them about the project, and they promised not to be involved in such activities again having received our message that the trade is harmful to their heath, the society and the environment.
“We gave them the task of identifying the skills they would want us to train them on as an alternative source of livelihood for them,” Dekil added.
Speaking on the clean-up process, Dekil appealed to Ogonis in particular, and the entire people of Rivers State, to exercise more patience over the delay in the implementation of Ogoni clean-up exercise.
Dekil, who made the appeal at a press conference organised to mark his 100 days in office, in Port Harcourt, said it has become necessary to explain the process of the clean up to Ogonis.
He stated that, “the clean-up is done through proper assessment, characterization of the site, finding each of the pollutants, isolating them as well as identifying the best possible technology for removing them and these processes take time, skills and expertise”.
The coordinator added that there were processes and procedures involved in the Ogoni clean-up exercise that would require more time and patience from the affected communities to understand.
“Those baseline work, information gathering, and planning take time, and it is important that we reiterate again that you are not going to be seeing bulldozers in the field because that is not the way to do it.
“As for the report that we are not doing anything, that is wrong because we are doing so much, we are laying those scientific building blocks that will lead to an effective and professional clean-up exercise,” he added.
Dekil also hinted that in the past 100 days, his committee has embarked on educating and enlightening the people on the processes involved in the Ogoni clean-up project, adding that members of the affected communities have been engaged in the sensitisation exercise.
“We have met community leaders, youth, women, paramount rulers and their council of chiefs to explain to us their needs, and what was common is that ‘they need water’. Incidentally, that is one of the key recommendations of the report, ‘provision of potable water,” Dekil noted.
The Tide investigations show that HYPREP had visited Bodo, K-Dere, and Kpor communities, among others, as part of plans to commence the act of clean-up of oil impacted sites in Ogoni.
It would be recalled that the coordinator of HYPREP had earlier this month said that stakeholders had begun efforts to provide emergency water supply to address the concerns of Ogoni people, adding that in the next three months, project implementation would have been activated.

 

Susan Serekara-Nwikhana

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Drop Press Regulation Bill, Media Bodies Tell Reps

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The Nigerian Press Organisation (NPO), which comprises the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), has called on the House of Representatives to step down a bill seeking to amend the Nigerian Press Council Act, noting that it is still a subject of litigation the Supreme Court.
Several media organisations and groups also criticised various clauses in the bill as possibly discouraging freedom of speech and press in the country.
The House Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values, which organised the hearing on the bill, however, insisted on going ahead with the exercise.
The committee had organised the hearing on five bills including the ‘Bill for an Act to Amend the Nigerian Press Council Act, CAP N128, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, to Remove Bottlenecks Affecting Its Performance and Make the Council in Tune with Current Realities in Regulating the Press and for Related Matters (HB 330).’
At the opening of the event, Chairman of the committee, Hon Olusegun Odebunmi, apologised to the media bodies, especially NPAN, which had protested, last Wednesday, over exclusion from the exercise.
He noted that an “open invitation” to the event was extended to stakeholders.
“So, I am sorry if there is anybody who thinks we did not invite them. It is not by intention; it was definitely a mistake. Notwithstanding, we have covered everybody through our advert,” he said.
The Editor-in-Chief of Leadership Newspapers, Azubuike Ishiekwene, who represented the NPO, stated that contrary to the claim of an “open invitation” by the committee, the organisation did not receive any notification that would have enabled it to engage the lawmakers and Nigerians robustly on the bill.
Ishiekwene said, “There is a matter and I am sure that as stewards of the people and the law, you are aware that there is a pending matter between the NPO and some parties involved in this legislation.
“That is why a negotiated conversation seems to us to be a way to deal with it because there is a matter pending before the Supreme Court: between the NPAN and some parties involved in this bill that is being amended. And as stewards of the law, I am sure you are constrained just as I am to make any further conversations on this matter because it is a pending matter before the Supreme Court.
“The last time it came up in 2010 – it is a matter that has actually been pending since 1999 – 17 of the 39 clauses contained in the bill that you are considering were ruled unconstitutional by the court at that time. Of course, the Federal Government appealed the ruling. We won the appeal and the matter is currently before the Supreme Court.
“I will rest my case by appealing to the honourable members of this committee; I crave your indulgence to refer to a conversation that was had on a similar matter in 2018 when this matter came up before the Senate and the pendency of this matter before the court was canvassed. And the Senate – the 8th National Assembly – at that time agreed that the prudent thing to do was to step it down. I urge this House to also consider a similar step.”
Odebunmi, however, argued that the House was doing its constitutional job “and I am very sure (that) no court will restrain us from doing the job.”
He noted that while the lawmakers would not stop anybody from going ahead with the judicial process, the lawmakers have the mandate of Nigerians to amend laws.
“It is not about the matter in court, it is an Act of the National Assembly and we deemed it fit to amend it and we are doing that. It does not stop you from what you are doing but this is the position of the National Assembly,” he stated.
Also, the International Press Centre, Media Rights Agenda, Centre for Media Law and Advocacy, and the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, in a joint memorandum titled, ‘For a Truly Independent and Media Freedom Friendly Nigeria Press Council’, called on the National Assembly to expunge all laws intended to criminalise free speech and press.
The memo was signed by the Executive Director, IPC, Lanre Arogundade; Executive Director, MRA, Edetaen Ojo; Executive Director, CMLA, Richard Akinnola; and Executive Director, PTCIJ, Dapo Olorunyomi.
Arogundade, who read from the memo, said, “First, we like to say that the international behaviour towards media regulation is peer regulation, constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the press, and the expunging from statute all laws that criminalises freedom of expression. This is the line the committee should tow like Ghana has done and like South Africa has done; and with regards to throwing off defamation statute from the books, the way Sierra Leone has done.
“A consideration is that the amendment seeks an unabashed focus to restrict freedom of expression while masking the toga of something else. It attempts to do what other laws have done like the Cybercrimes Acts which Sections 24 and 38, which in no fewer than ten instances have been used to clampdown on bloggers or journalists for expressing opinion antagonistic to politically or economically powerful elites.
“Bodies like the Amnesty International has documented 50 cases where the law had targeted, not cybercrime suspects, but bloggers and journalists for writing on what they ‘know to be false, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to another.’”
Others are that, “The ethical code that should be operationalised by the council is the Code of Ethics of Journalists in Nigeria as adopted by the Nigerian Press Organisation, comprising the Nigeria Union of Journalists, the Nigerian Guild of Editors and the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria in Ilorin in 1998, and as may be regularly updated. This has been the practice. A political and non-journalism office like that of the Minister of Information should not be given the power of approval over the code of conduct of journalists.
“The power to determine sanctions relating to hefty fines should be vested in the courts and not the council. The Court of Appeal has clearly established this legal principle in NOSDRA v Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (2018) LPELR-44210 (CA) where it held that ‘the imposition of fines by NOSDRA was contrary to its powers on the basis that penalties or fines are imposed as punishment for an offence or violation of the law and the power as well as competence to establish that an offence has been committed belongs to the courts and not a regulatory agency.’
“The provision relating to revocation of license for alleged publication of fake news should be removed from the Act. Decisions for appropriate sanctions in relation to such offences should be vested in the law courts.”

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Buhari Promises Support For Families Of Fallen Military, Security Personnel

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President Muhammadu Buhari has said his administration would ensure that resources are devoted to the care of the families and loved ones of the officers and men of the Nigerian Armed Forces, as well as operatives of other security agencies, who have died in the course of fighting insecurity in the country.
The President who spoke, yesterday, during a visit to personnel of the Armed Forces and security agencies in Operation Hadin Kai, at the Maimalari Cantonment, Maiduguri, Borno State, also expressed the gratitude of the nation to the security agencies.
The President, who is on an official visit to Borno State, however, charged the military and security agencies not to give breathing space to terrorists and criminals in various parts of the country, saying the war must be concluded with restoration of peace and reconstruction of all the affected areas.
“I am delighted to be with you this afternoon, to address you on this special occasion of my official visit to Borno State. I want to seize this opportunity to put it on record that our nation will forever be indebted to you, for your patriotic commitment to the defense of our fatherland against insurgency and criminality.
“I, therefore, commend you and remember all the personnel who have paid the supreme sacrifice in ensuring that Nigeria remains an indivisible and secure entity.
“As I send my heartfelt condolences to the families of our fallen heroes and pray for the souls of the departed, I want to assure you that my administration will spare no effort or resources to ensure that the widows and children of our fallen heroes who paid the supreme price in defense of our beloved country, are well cared for,” he said.
According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, the President said wounded comrades will get the best medical attention towards their full recovery.
“While acknowledging your collective efforts at decimating and degrading the terrorists and reaffirming the inviolable sovereignty of our nation, I also wish to extol your steadfastness and untiring efforts in the face of the difficulties you experience in the Theatres of Operation.
“Your collective efforts have resulted in the relative peace being enjoyed in the region today. Under my watch, the Armed Forces of Nigeria have been provided a firm strategy and clear sense of direction to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.
“We should not allow our adversaries the opportunity or breathing space to challenge or undermine our national interests and core values. The defense and security agencies should rest assured of the Federal Government’s unalloyed commitment to winning the battle against terror and criminality,” he added.
Buhari commended the military and security agencies for the synergy that translated into successes in restoring peace and order.
“I am particularly happy to note the increasing understanding and cooperation within the military, as well as the inter-agency cooperation in the fight against the terrorists and other criminal elements in the North-East.
“The outcome of this synergy is evidenced by the successes recorded in the ongoing Operation Tura Takaibango, which has so far degraded the insurgents’ capabilities in the Timbuktu Triangle, Sambisa Forest and the Lake Chad Region.
“I am, therefore, pleased to acknowledge that the military and other security agencies including civilian stakeholders are adhering to the true spirit of Operation Hadin Kai, which implies “jointness, synergy and cooperation.
“By pooling together the collective resources and comparative advantages of the Armed Forces and other security agencies, we hope the enemy will now feel the ferocity of our firepower and the weight of our resolve,” the President said.
Side-by-side with the efforts of the Armed Forces and security agencies, Buhari assured that his administration is developing a strategy for post-war reconstruction and peace building.
“Concerted efforts are being made to fast-track reconstruction and development programmes in the affected communities in the North-East.
“I am hopeful that this will lead to the speedy resettlement of displaced persons, as well as the restoration of bubbling community life as people return to their homes.
“Alongside investment in development and reconstruction, we will sustain our investment in the Armed Forces in a manner that balances the carrot and stick,” he said.
The President said several interventions by the Federal Government had led to the procurement and delivery of large consignments of critical combat enablers, including high calibre weapons and ammunition, “Many have been injected into the theatre and soon other equipment that have just arrived in the country would also be deployed to the theatre of operations. Much more equipment will be procured for the Armed Forces to cater for both the short and long-term requirements.
“I would like, at this point, to also commend the hierarchy of our Armed Forces for their strategic foresight in ensuring that some of our critical military equipment are fabricated locally.”
Buhari also noted that repairs and maintenance of some of the vital weapons were now being carried out in the country, thereby saving the nation a lot of foreign exchange and also creating jobs for our teeming population.
“As personnel of our Armed Forces and security agencies, you must understand that these items of equipment must be put to good use against the terrorists and other criminal elements. There is no room for complacency, and no need to be less than 100 per cent alert at all times.
“As your Commander-in-Chief, I want to assure you that my government will continue to work towards the provision of timely funding and procurement of equipment for the Armed Forces and other security agencies. This is intended to boost the prosecution of the ongoing war to a logical conclusion and also to serve our collective interests and well-being.
“In addition, your welfare is of utmost importance and concern to this government. I am glad that the gradual rotation of the troops in the field has commenced, as I directed. I am sure that this will minimize and possibly eliminate battle fatigue, as well as enhance troops’ morale,” he added.
The President thanked the military and security agencies for unalloyed loyalty and selfless sacrifices towards the defence of our country, adding, “Your courage and gallantry will continue to inspire others, as they echo into the future.”
“While I commend your resilience, let me remind you that there is still a lot of work to be done, to completely restore peace to the North-East, stem the activities of armed bandits in the North-West and North-Central, as well as deal with other security challenges across the country.
“You must, therefore, remain steadfast and see this war to a conclusive end. In doing so, you must rely on inter-agency cooperation, and strengthen your cohesion with the troops of neighboring Republics of Cameroon, Chad and Niger in our collective fight against the terrorists, under the auspices of the Multinational Joint Task Force. This will consolidate our efforts and facilitate the speedy return of peace and stability to the region,” the President said.
He urged the military and security agencies to continue to make Nigeria proud.
Buhari also interacted with some of the wounded soldiers, assuring them that the government was fully committed to their recovery and welfare.
In his remarks, the Commander of Theatre Operations Hadin Kai, Maj-Gen Felix Omoigui, assured troops of the President’s confidence and commitment to their welfare, especially in bringing the war to a conclusive end.
The commander thanked the President for the visit to the troops, which he said will greatly boost the morale of all those fighting to keep the country in peace.
Governors of Borno and Yobe State, Babagana Zulum, and Mai Bunu, respectively; Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Leo Irabor; Chief of Army Staff, Maj-Gen Farouk Yahaya; Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Awwal Gambo; Chief of Staff, Air Vice Marshal Isiaka Amao; and National Security Adviser, Maj-Gen Babagana Monguno (rtd), were also at the event.

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Buhari Can’t Abdicate Role On Security To Govs, Wike Insists

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike says it is unconstitutional for President Muhammadu Buhari to shift the power of securing lives and property of Nigerians to the state governors.
According to Wike, Mr President is the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, and cannot declare that governors are in charge of security in their respective states.
Wike, while speaking at the commissioning of the 21-kilometre Odufor-Akpoku-Umuoye Road in Etche Local Government Area of the state, yesterday, said such position suggests that the APC-led Federal Government has lost grip of strategy of how to tackle the troubling security issues, and make the country safe for Nigerians.
“Mr President, you’re the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. You appoint Inspector General of Police (IG), you appoint the Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, the Commissioner of Police (CP), Director of Department of State Service (DSS) and other heads of security. Which one do we appoint? How can people appointed by Mr. President be under me?”
He further said, “It is not only to borrow money for Nigeria that you’re in charge. You must, also, be in charge in other things including security. Who signed order 10? Is it the governors? It is not when things are going bad concerning security and you say you’re not in charge, and it becomes governors’ responsibility.”
Wike admonished the APC-led Federal Government to own up that it can no longer fulfil promises made to Nigerians, and also lead the country out of its present predicament.
According to Wike, when there is a failure, what makes leadership respectable is that such leader was able to accept its weakness publicly.
The governor pointed out that it was time Nigerians begin to compare the performances of PDP and APC governors in office.
He said, Mr. President was short of calling names of those governors who run to Aso Rock when they are supposed to stay in their states to see the needs of their states and people.
“Mr. President should have come out openly and said, my APC governors, stop worrying me. Go back to your states, and do your work. On that, I support him.
“Thank God, Mr. President knows that I am not one of those that go to visit him over one problem or the other. I, as the governor of Rivers State under PDP, you’ll never find me there”, he added.
In his remarks, the former Senate President, Senator David Mark, who performed the commissioning of the 21-kilometre Odufor-Akpoku-Umuoye Road, noted the excitement expressed on the faces of the locals who are directly impacted by the project.
He noted that even those in opposition in the state have become so weak to have anything more to say against Wike, who was not only performing, but has remained as a strong pillar of the PDP.
“I told him I’ll be here because he loves his people. Politics and democracy is not about enriching one or two persons within a community. The Odufor-Akpoku-Umuoye Road is project that will outlive everybody in this place. The legacy you’re leaving behind, Rivers people will not forget you. They will defend you, they’ll protect you and they will stand by you always.
“That is why you can walk tall. That is why you can jump into your car and go anywhere because you’ve shown them love. You’ve brought democracy to the people. PDP as a party is happy to have you. You’re one of the pillars of our great party.”
Providing the description of the project, Rivers State Commissioner for Works, Elloka Tasie-Amadi said Odufor-Akpoku-Umuoye Road connects part of Etche land to Omerelu, Apani and Omademe communities in neighbouring Ikwerre Local Government Area, and onwards to Imo State.
“This is the very first time a road is being constructed here along this axis. Prior to this time, this was merely an earth Road with gullies all over; it was something best suited for only the toughest 4 by 4 off road vehicles. Today, through the instrumentality of the governor of Rivers State, we now have a 10.3m wide 21km long road. 7.3m of this is the carriageway, which is flanked on either side by a 1.5m wide shoulder.
“9.3km of drainage is constructed for water discharge and 32 road signs installed to aid drivers, commuters and enhance safety in the area. With this road will come all the socio-economic benefits associated with good transportation access”, he added.

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