Minister of state for environment, Jibril Ibrahim says the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government is not going to commence the clean-up of Ogoniland on a faulty foundation.
While speaking with The Cable, Ibrahim asserted the previous administration employed 150 persons to the Hydrocarborn Pollution and Restoration Project (HYPREP), 120 of whom were without appointment letters.
He disclosed that the government is currently clearing all outstanding matters, while building the right structures, prior to the actual clean-up,stating that he is “not in a hurry to fail”.
“The staff that were recruited where more than 150, only 30 have employment letters, the rest have no appointment letters, and the bill they gave us for the payment was about N6 billion. Even the project coordinator was receiving about N6 million per month,” he said.
“So you see why we have to be careful, like I always tell people, I am not in a hurry to fail. If you don’t unravel all these nitty-gritty, you cannot move successfully. And You cannot unravel this nitty-gritty without being careful.
“On Wednesday, when we went to council, I asked the minister of labour, he said they have almost finished the report to advise us on this bill of N6 billion. 100 plus have no appointment letter, yet they want to be paid.
“They were paid once, so it means maybe a form of contract, but formal letter of appointment is not there. If we are to address this strictly, it will be only 30, but we don’t want to start on a faulty note, people will start agitating, and if you are having problems with government, people believe what people say than what government says.
“So we don’t want to put ourselves under that bad light. Let us see how we can resolve it amicably, so we have a clean slate.”
The minister added that a lot advocating for the clean-up are not apparently agitating for the people, but for what their personal gains from the excersice.
He divulged there is a request by community members, for the ministry to buy new vehicles and rent big offices, adding that the ministry recovered about 14 brand new Toyota Hilux from the old HYPREP office.
“Why you hear this agitation is that some people want us to start buying vehicles, to rent offices, and I say no, we are not renting an office. We have NOSDRA (National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency), a big office, an agency under ministry of environment.
“When I was handing over to them, I told them that this is not a landlord and tenant relationship; it’s a case of two landlords owning a property. NOSDRA and HYPREP are babies of the ministry of environment, therefore they must share the property of their father.
“Some of the people agitating want us to rent when we have a bill of N96 million we have not settled, they want us to recruit anyhow when we’ve not settled the so called N6 billion.”