By Samuel Oyadongha
Yenagoaâ€”A group of legal practitioners, civil society leaders and journalists has described as â€œmisplacedâ€ Federal Governmentâ€™s position on the implementation of amnesty programme as the only solution to the contentious issues in the Niger Delta.
They declared that other issues on gas flaring and environmental degradation by oil companies in the region were equally necessary.
According to the group,Â the Federal Government must, beyond amnesty,Â resolve the outstanding environmental issues of gas flaring, oil spills and militarization of the Niger Delta to pave way for genuine peace in the region.
Also identified in the final draft of communiquÃ© made available to newsmen in Yenagoa and signed by the Executive Director, Citizenâ€™s Centre, Barrister Nurudeen Ogbara, the Executive Director, Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Rev. Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director, Centre for Free Speech, Comrade Richard Akinola, among others, is the need for the National Assembly and the Presidency to review obsolete laws bothering on environmental degradation, gas flaring and the Freedom of Information Bill as originally conceived to ensure access to information.
Participants at the three-day interactive session observed that there existed a parlous state of the nationâ€™s environment arising from unregulated human activity that has created monumental environmental degradation with attendant negative impacts on health and local livelihoods in every part of the country.
The participants noted that the replacement of an agriculture-based economy with crude oil was the architect of environmental degradation in various regions of the country with grave ramifications on land, air and water.
â€œNo provision for freedom of the press is enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution as ought to be the case to ensure access to information for the protection of community and environmental rights.
â€œThere is need for journalists to embrace new and alternative media to sell their medium and ideas but after ascertaining the suitability of the platform.
â€œThat it is important that environmental reportage must be continuous until the challenges identified are resolved. Laws that prohibit journalists from obtaining information or publishing reports based on so-called national security issues and negative environmental impacts are still in existence and constitute impediment to growth of our democracy,â€ the participants submitted.
They proposed that there was the need for the National Assembly to initiate and support legislative efforts to abrogate obsolete laws on the environment in the country.
â€œBeyond the amnesty, government must resolve the outstanding environmental issues of gas flaring, oil spills and militarization of the Niger Delta to pave way for genuine peace in the region. Freedom of Information Bill, as originally conceived, should be passed into law by the National Assembly to ensure access to information,â€ they declared.