By Davies Iheamnachor
OGONI—WEARY of losingtheir lands to government and multinational oil companies, Ogoni women, some of them widows, mostly driven by famine, from Eleme, Tai, Khana and Gokana Local Government Areas, Rivers State, have teamed up and formed a coalition against land grabbing and disregard of female folk in their areas.
The women, who alleged that they were denied access to their ancestral lands for crop growing, said they were facing unspeakable sufferings, as the lands were sold without the consent of mothers, making their children to undergo hardship since farming is their major source of livelihood.
Govt deceived the people— Mrs. Nwaanam
Penultimate Thursday, they organized a one-day workshop at Lokiaka Development Centre in Wiiyaakara community, Khana local government, where they declared that the coalition, Women Alliance Against Land Grab, WAALG, would give women the opportunity to discuss ways to be integrated to support their families in land matters.
Speaking, leader of the group and a native of Wiiyaakara, Mrs. Gloria Nwaanam, said: “Since 1976 that our land was taken by the government; there has been a lot of hunger in the land. This is because that land is the only land we have in this community. And when they took the land, we were expecting that they were going to build factories to employ our youths in the village, but nothing like that was done. What they did was to bring the same crops that we used to plant on the land and there was no value to our own because theirs yielded more than ours. Some of us that are widows, we can pledge the land to other people and use the money in building or even training our children, but now that nothing of such has happened we are suffering.
Women totally abandoned
“As at the time they were doing the land negotiation, they did not include the women in the business and that is the reason their treaty has really affected the land,” she said.
Similarly, the Executive Director of Lokiaka Community Development Centre, Martha Agbani, called for the abolition of the Land Use Act to enable our people to repossess their farmlands, stating that they were in Ogoni to examine how land grabbing has impacted on women in the area.
Agbani said: “We are in Ogoni land, looking at how land has been impacting negatively on the socio-economic lives of women and we gathered beyond what we expected. It goes beyond inheritance by women and Land Use Act, but their identity as a people. In the first place, even the Land Use Act does not allow for the women participation. Like the Ogoni land, it has high oil and gas presence. So if you want to look at it from the Oil Pipeline Licence Act, it states that there is compensation, it goes to the family head, who is the man.”
Agbani added: “So the women are not recognized, they do not have voice, they are not consulted, they are not compensated, there is no negotiation on that aspect and that is the reason we have come together to say, women being impacted by land grabbing from different angles, both on agriculture and pipeline laying, should come together to form a common voice. That is what we have as, Women Alliance Against Land Grab. This group brings women together, like a voice to help to fight for other women that are impacted negatively in the area.
Not contesting leadership with men, but …
“We are talking about economic justice now. The Land Use Act ought to be abrogated in the first place. When that is done, it was done in a very shoddy way. It came with the feeder system, which is not the practice of Ogoni people. Although men own land, women are the bulk of farmers, they interact more with the land, so this should be abrogated and then come back to status quo,” she asserted. The women leader pointed out: “If they want to have land, there should be informed consent from all parties, which is what we are saying.”
Land Use Act, a curse –Ikuponisi